In Memory of Antonio Miro

Posted On July 24, 2005

By Barbara Toy

IN MEMORIAM ANTONIO MIRO, June 13, 1949-June 24, 2005

When I wrote my column for July, which was the second week in June, I had visited Antonio Miro in the rehabilitation facility only a few days before, and found him looking amazingly healthy and vigorous. I spent a couple hours with him, and we talked about his health (of course), his plans for his telescope, what he would need to handle conditions at Anza with an artificial leg, his family, work, the Beginners' Class – there was never any problem finding things to talk about with Antonio. In spite of all he'd been through, he was very upbeat and hopeful for the future – somehow, he always managed to keep that positive attitude.

He was released to go home the following Friday, the day the Board presented him with the plaque honoring him for his contributions to the club, especially with the Beginners' Class. Sunday he had a setback that put him back in the hospital, but it proved to be fairly minor, and he was to be released to go home again at the end of that week.

Then, on Friday, June 24, I was among Antonio's friends who were shocked and saddened to receive this email message from Carol, Antonio's wife:

We lost Tony last night. He was doing well in the hospital, getting ready for discharge in 2 days. He watched the game last night and arrested several hours later.

Losing Antonio so unexpectedly after he'd come through his difficult ten hour surgery so well was hard for everyone who was close to him at all, especially when the future had seemed so hopeful. There was a big turnout for his funeral, including a lot of people he worked with – it was clear that he was as liked and respected by his co-workers as he was by fellow astronomers and people from other areas of his life.

It seems that funerals show us sides of people we didn't know before – such as, in the case of Antonio, that he liked to explore caves and that, when he was young, he was one of the first group to explore a cave with prehistoric rock paintings and other artifacts that is now a national monument and that archeologists are still studying, or that he worked in Kuwait for ten years before coming to the United States, or even how much he enjoyed camping and mountain climbing. Although he mentioned growing up in Madrid, Spain, somehow these other topics never came up in my conversations with him – which is sad because I'm sure he could have told some great stories about his experiences.

I did hear some good stories from his co-workers at the gathering after the funeral, though. One woman told how he came to grow his beard – he was working in Majorca, there was some kind of celebration going on, and he was up all night partying. He went straight from the party to work, and someone there commented on the fact he hadn't shaved. "I'm growing a beard," he said – and so, of course, he did. Another person told about a young intern Antonio supervised who was so shy he just wanted to hide in his cubicle and not talk to anybody. Antonio made him telephone around for information they needed and, though he helped and encouraged him, wouldn't let him off doing it, regardless of his excuses – the first few weeks were hard on him, but after six months (said our informant) the intern was a changed man and could call anybody about anything with no problem at all, a case of really effective mentoring.

When word spread within the club about Antonio's death, Liam Kennedy emailed this message:

Oh that is such sad news. Antonio was one of the first OCA members I ever met. He was a wonderful person who cared a great deal about astronomy and sharing his passion with the many people who attended the Beginners' Astronomy Class. It was always a great pleasure to spend time with Antonio when he came down to Anza with his family. I will miss him and I know the club has lost a very bright star.

His sentiments have been echoed by many members I've talked to, before and after Antonio's death. He will indeed be sadly missed by all of us who were privileged to know him, and his family has our deepest sympathy.

I've been told that the options Antonio was given in May were to do nothing, in which case the circulation in his legs would continue to deteriorate and he would have steadily increasing pain and limitation in his remaining leg, to amputate both legs at the hip, or to undergo a risky surgery to bypass blockage in the aorta where it split into the femoral arteries and replace portions of the circulatory system in his left leg. Of these, only the last had the potential for a physically active life, and that is the only option he told me about himself. The problem with that option was that there was a significant chance his heart would not withstand the rigors of the ten to twelve hour procedure, and that he would not survive it, but that was the option he and his wife chose. The night before that surgery, which was on May 17, Antonio had his wife send out this email that he had written to his friends and co-workers. It gives a better sense of his humanity and courage than I could ever hope to do:

Dear friends:

The last two weeks of my life have been both a blessing and a disappointment.

The disappointment is due mainly, that after further testing, the only viable alternative to vascularize the circulation in my legs and foot, is the risky one. Other alternatives would only postpone things to a relatively near future. During this period the quality of my life would be substantially reduced, and I cannot accept this. Therefore, I, together with my wife, have decided to take our chances and proceed with the risky alternative, thinking that whatever life I have left, will have at least some quality to it.

The blessing has been to know that so many of you are my friends. Starting with the blood drive at the Med Center, following with the donation of sick leave, and finishing with the many e-mails and get well notes I have received, your support has been overwhelming, and, I as write this, is bringing tears to my eyes. You are a heck of a group. My father once told me that the best thing I could accomplish in life is that when I walked away from a place, do it with my head high in the air and being remembered by my peers. Your support brings me a notch closer, I believe, to this accomplishment. Nothing is perfect and I’m sure that during my life I have offended or disappointed somebody. Those offended or disappointed by my actions please accept my most sincere apologies.

I will go into surgery tomorrow. It would be foolish to say that I am not scared, because I am, although I am fully at peace with the decision me and my wife did. Also, knowing so many of you will keep me in your minds and prayers gives me the additional strength and courage that I need.

God bless you all.

May you truly rest in peace, Antonio.