Lessons from Manuela Gonzalez

One week ago today, my Great Aunt Nella (Manuela) passed away. I haven't experienced a death in my family since my Grandmother passed away when I was 4 years old. I was given the honor of speaking at her funeral and reflecting on her life. This is what she taught me:

1. Smile, laugh and push forward despite ambiguity and uncertainty. In the later part of her life, my Aunt Nella suffered from dementia; every moment of everyday was new to her. People she had known her entire life were 'reintroduced' to her on a daily basis. She knew enough at times to know she was ill and feel the intense loneliness that goes along with mental solitude and disorientation. But despite the fact that her mind and body were failing, her spirit was not. Even in a state of utter confusion, she still made friends and won over people's hearts. That is a testament to her character indeed.

2. I sat with Aunt Nella in some of the last moments of her life and I watched as the family celebrated her life and mourned her loss. I thought to myself what it takes to be a person that people run to be near. Her remedy was a rich dose of good humor and an immense love for life. She loved everyone, especially in her later years and she made people feel good. Make enough people feel good with your kind nature and you'll have a rich and fulfilling tribe.

3. Life is short. I had one regret when she died and it was that I didn't take her grocery shopping enough. When I lived in Buffalo, my elders wanted me to take them places and many times, they felt needy to me. I was balancing a job, a business and a break up. But then on the day of her wake I sat and really looked at her and I realized she was old and probably bored at times. The elderly depend on the young for companionship, travel and a slew of other things. If we don't see the joy and karmic duty to help them, we are missing out a beautiful piece of life. I'm sorry Aunt Nella I didn't take you shopping more often. It's my one regret.

The bigger picture here is to be true to yourself and do the work you are meant to do.

Stop putting it off.

Every moment you procrastinate and avoid the work God equipped you with the gifts to achieve, the work that will change the world and bring you the most joy, you are taking your time here for granted.

You assume that tomorrow will come. You assume that you will have another opportunity to have that one conversation. You assume that there will be another time to make a difference.

And that's just plain foolish.

What you're really doing is hiding, because concealed beneath the excuse, is the fear. The fear that you'll fail, the fear that you'll succeed, the fear of everything and anything...

Fulfill your purpose. It's your gift as much as it's your responsibility.