We usually cannot assess the importance of various moments in our lives until many years have passed and we able to look back at those inflection points. I found my direction in life from my grandfather, but didn’t realize it until he was gone.
My maternal grandfather, Andres, was the first grandparent I lost. In Mexico, it’s traditional that one day after you pass, you’re in wake then buried. I was close to my grandfather and loved him greatly, and I had watched him live as a gentle and caring man, not just to his family, but for each person he encountered. He was a man of boundless love.
There’s an unspoken rule about having a favorite grandparent, but he was. I happened to be his favorite grandchild. It was our secret.
At his viewing, I’m standing in the doorway. On one side, people are offering their respects while my grandmother wails. On the other, family, friends, and people in the community are eating beans, rice, and fajitas. They were all celebrating the man I had admired my whole life.
What amazed me, then and now, was how many people had been touched by my grandfather that didn’t really know him well. Andres was a communitarian, gave unsolicited favors, and always lent a kind, loving hand to strangers.
In that moment, I was struck about my life and whether I would be measured by these standards. As I looked into the future at my own funeral, I wondered if it would be filled with people who I made wealthy – because that was my current path. Or, would my funeral be filled with tens of thousands of people, many of whom I had never met but who were there celebrating a life of meaning and impact?
That’s the kind of funeral my grandfather, Andres, had in his own way, with his community in Mexico. That’s what I wanted for myself.
That day set me on a new path. One filled with meaning and purpose. One where I changed our world profoundly and left my legacy in people’s hearts by instilling in them a lifestyle of giving and happiness.