I know that I usually focus my posts on the tangible things in my NYC existence (events, deals, giveaways, etc), but today I’m getting a bit personal. I’m still talking about the “free things in life” but with a twist. Specifically, the important life lessons that are gifted to us, often when we least expect them. I was attending the #Latism (Latinos in Social Media) conference in Chicago this past week and in the closing keynote found a dose of inspiration that seemed to be heaven sent. Before I get to the keynote a little background information is required.
I lost both of my parents to cancer within a year of each other and it changed my life profoundly. They were my best friends, my roommates, my travel buddies and amazingly loving people. I made a promise to myself after each of their deaths, to not allow sadness to overwhelm me on days like birthdays and anniversaries, but rather to utilize those occasions as opportunities to think of them more intentionally than every other day and focus on the wonderful memories of them.
November 11, 2011 marked three years since my mother’s passing. I took a moment to share some warm thoughts on Facebook with my sister, who currently lives in Japan. I smiled to the heavens several times recalling my mother’s unforgettable embrace and her indefatigable message that I could accomplish anything I wanted to because she had. You’re probably thinking “all good moms say that to their kids.” True, but when my mom said it, you had to take into account that she contracted polio at the age of 2 and lost all mobility in her legs. That until she came to this country from Peru at the age of 12, she got around by dragging herself on the floor or being carried by family members and that her first home in New York was Bellevue hospital, where she underwent about a dozen surgeries to straighten her legs and went through months of physical therapy to learn how to walk with leg braces and crutches. Despite minimal education and physical constraints, mami had a good paying job building radios, she found love, she married, raised two daughters with no assistance and did too many other amazing things to list in this one post.
Now back to that closing key note address at the #Latism conference. One of the mantras that has gotten me through the tough times has been everything happens for a reason. There was a reason I was at this conference and it went beyond the great networking, community building and professional development I expected. I was there to hear Tony Melendez share his story and in the process, hear my mom and feel her presence. Tony is a talented guitarist who has played for the likes of Pope John Paul II and touches all who see him perform because he has mastered his craft despite being born without arms.
Tony shared so much with us but it all boiled down to one truth and that is that we can do whatever we set our minds to, that there is always “a way.” He, like mami, accomplished what many probably would have said was impossible. Listening to Tony rekindled that sense of inspiration I felt every time I heard mami’s personal stories. I heard her voice in his that evening, felt her looking down on me and telling me “Mijita, you’ll achieve whatever you want to.”
Thank you Tony for being her messenger. Thank you #Latism for bringing Tony and I together. Gracias mami for being my guiding star always. Te extraño aunque se que no estas lejos.