To all my friends and… fellow travellers
Professor Alessandro Liberati, Director of the Italian Cochrane Centre, died on Sunday, 1 January 2012, following a long and courageous struggle with multiple myeloma. Alessandro’s friends and colleagues in The Cochrane Collaboration pay tribute to his life and work with a commemoration page and a memory book.
When Alessandro went back into hospital in May 2011 with a recurrence of the disease that had fought him for nearly a decade, he started a blog, Abbasso gli "smidollati"!, to keep his friends and colleagues informed. The blog was not intended to focus on the disease - at least not just that. It was a broader opportunity to reflect his capacities of multi-dimensional reasoning. It was typical of Alessandro, recognising the complexity of our research and healthcare systems, targeting the problems and suggesting solutions through an indirect and creative approach, and using innovative ideas. His thoughts were so intense that the reached outside his profession, touching constantly on politics, philosophy, ethics. They reflected his life and career.
17 December 2011
We’ve travelled a long way together, perhaps more so than we have fully realised. In these days, when I have inevitably been taking stock, I feel I have to thank all of you for the small parts of life that we have shared – some inside and some outside Giuseppa [Editor’s note: Giuseppa (or Josephine), Alessandro’s nickname for an air-filtering machine in his hospital room, became the subject of many of his final blogs. Giuseppa, in this context, also denotes his most recent hospital stay.] – and for always having the willingness to share these life experiences.
By the time you read these few sentences bidding you farewell, we will, unfortunately, be slightly more distant from each other, but I hope it is a case of only physical distance. Not all that much distance, as to impede the memory of you that I take away with me, and, the memory of me that I hope you will want to keep with you.
Those of you who know me a bit better know how lucky and privileged I have always considered myself. Starting with my three wonderful ladies who have had the patience to put up with me on our long family trip, up to the privilege of meeting, in my personal and professional life, many people who were able to give me love and affection. Some of you then went on to become true teachers and examples of life for me.
Many of you were people with whom I shared parts of my life before then having to say goodbye.
It was exactly this travelling together and then parting of ways, that was, perhaps, one of my characteristics that sometimes made me lovable, but at other times, was viewed as being a bit selfish and superficial on my part.
I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to those of you who were hurt by this side of my personality. I’d like to assure you that if this did happen, it never did for personal gain. I hope you believe me.
I was saying that meeting and getting to know so many great people has defined my world. First in Genoa, where I spent my childhood, then in Rome, as a teenager. I spent a large part of my life in Milan, after which came my American experiences of Boston and Los Angeles, and at the end, Bologna, where I spent my adulthood (!). A lot of change, always fruitful even though it was difficult.
I’ll give you an example, not because it’s the most important one but because it has stuck in my mind. In 1994, we left Los Angeles to return to Italy after a year’s sabbatical (a truly beautiful experience for all us Libs). At our great Californian-style farewell party, we’d left in the entrance hall of our house, a book of photographs of the Golden Valley, in which each person could write a message. The sentence I still remember, the one that touched me the most, went something like this: “it has been a very intense year, both personally and professionally, and it so sad to discover that we share so many values and beliefs, and yet we are forced to live so far away and with only few opportunities for true friendship….”
This is precisely what I mean, this sense of “closeness-sharing” that I would like to maintain, regardless of the distance between us (supposing that I know what I am talking about now and where we will meet again). I am convinced that you will carry on working towards making the world a slightly better place, and, in your own way, according to your abilities and vocations, will bring about micro- and macro-changes.
Don’t think I’m crazy if I tell you that I took these nearly 15 years of “maybe, almost certainly disease” (also including the five years of MGUS) to be a sign of greater responsibility. I made every effort to keep it in mind whilst making my choices. First of all, because I was able to prepare myself and seek (not always with success) the prospect of a different life, a less competitive one, and as much as I could, to better understand and accept the limits and potential that we all have, together with the reality that surrounds us.
Certainly in these 15 years I have missed riding my motorbike, playing tennis and being able to travel a bit. And perhaps I stopped myself from choosing a slightly more radical life. But all in all, I really think I have received more than I have given.
I’ll end this letter with a request… that you are certainly expecting.
When there’s the time and the possibility, I would like a special edition of the Libertrophy to be organised [Editor’s note: the Libertrophy is a weekend party/tournament of fun and games organised by the Liberatis at Alessandro’s family home in Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany, to celebrate Alessandro’s birthday]. What it will have to absolutely be – as it always has been – is a party characterised by high spirits and by the desire to be together, hosted and excellently organised by my three ladies. When all is said and done, since the first Libertrophy in 2004, many of my wishes have come true: Inter has won everything in the world, Berlusconi’s government has fallen twice and I hope this time it’s for good. And I’ll stop here because…… The spirit of communications should be extremely simple given that in previous Libertrophy editions you have amply shown amazing creativity and such an easygoing spirit.
I’d like to ask you not to waste money on announcements but to put it to better use through donations.
I raise my clenched fist in salutation,