Suyog and I got to know your dad in 2006/7, when we were in London to pursue our studies. In fact we had just started dating, and meeting your mum and dad was an important event for us! We looked up to your parents and, still being students, we felt somewhat like kids in front of them. However your dad had an art to make everyone feel respected, included and accepted – and that he did with us. He was a great listener and his confident caring personality meant many came to him to seek personal guidance. In fact, he played an important part in the first stages of Suyog becoming a part of the De Jong-Bianchessi family. Over the years that we lived in London, your parents invited us several times for parties and social events – your dad would always make sure everyone was taken care of, felt welcomed, and was having a good time. Every visit brought us closer to your mum and dad. The ease with which he made people feel comfortable, later translated into Suyog regularly seeking career-related advice from him, and I know how much that meant to him, but as I said this was also one of the first contacts that Suyog established within the extended family. I think they had a special bond. This meant a lot to me too. And the relation with both of your parents grew from there. Your mum and dad were adventurous and came to both of our weddings, one in Italy and the second in India. I can tell you that even in India your dad’s charm had its effect – his good nature was visible, and helped to overcome cultural barriers that may have held back some of the other wedding guests. And it turns out that Indian weddings involve numerous rituals, one of them being that a special moment is taken for the brother of the bride to remind the groom to take good care of his wife as they embark on a new life together. As I don’t have a brother, your dad happily took on that role and as you can see in this photo, he pulled Suyog’s ear, and I still remember him jokingly saying “Be careful now, take care of Cristina – I am watching you..!”. I am so glad that your dad took on this symbolic role on such an important day for us, and he has since then been like “our elder brother”, someone who (together with your mum) we felt looked after us, had wisdom to share when we needed advice, and was always a delight to be around. After your arrival I remember how happy and proud your mum and dad were. We regularly kept in touch during family occasions and holidays in Italy. We felt immediately reconnected each time we saw them- no matter how many months had passed. We treasure these memories, and will always think of your dad’s cheerful, generous and encouraging approach when facing the big and small challenges in life.
Jude, this is what we want to tell you: your dad loved you more than any dad possibly could. A part of him lives inside you. You know you have a family with us – Suyog, Cristina and your little sister Alicia. Just like your parents were our family bond in London, remember you have a family in Washington, D.C. We are here for you at all times. Lots of love, Cristina (Tina) and Suyog (Pog)