My daughter’s Abuelo’s services begin today. Family are flying to Miami from around the country to attend this celebration of his life – which makes me feel a bit better about it. My daughter flew in to Miami to support her mom and show her maternal grandfather the respect he earned and deserved. I’m regretting not going myself, and it would not be appropriate for me to offer any form of in-person eulogy, as I failed him and the entire family long ago by being a poor, weak son-in-law. But I wanted to take a moment to provide my thoughts, out of respect.
He passed away peacefully in his sleep,which is the way I think most everyone would want to go. As a Catholic, I believe in Heaven, the Pearly Gates and Saint Peter standing right in front of them saying “yup, you’re on the list – you made some mistakes, but your positives WELL outrank your negatives, so come on in”, and the individual’s soul’s ability to be reunited with his / her family in the afterlife. That concept makes me feel a bit better about death, as it allows each of us as mortals to embrace the possibility that passing from this world is not the end of the story – just the ending of a chapter.
I know that other religions believe in different endings, like reincarnation (if that’s the case, I want to come back as The Rock). Some believe in Valhalla. Others believe the souls of the departed are embodied in the elements. Then there are those that think that when you pass away, things simply stop. Some of these concepts are warm and fuzzy – others…..not so much. It’s up to each of us to make our own calls as to what we truly believe in.
But I’m a Roman Catholic. I do honestly believe in Heaven. And that’s where Chelsea’s Abuelo is right now. I picture him speaking in an excited tone to Saint Pete (who can speak every language, of course, as he absolutely crushed all of the courses available on the Rosetta Stone app), telling him all about his awesome kids and grandkids. How lucky he was to have a great big family. How much fun he had. How disappointed he was when Ric Flair retired from the WWE. Then Saint Peter hands him an entry ticket and opens the gate for him, saying “there’s seating down in the front”. Corny, right? Well it’s the way I like to think of it.
I know that science casts some doubt on the afterlife, and those scholars are welcome to their opinions. But from all of the beauty around us, I find it it very difficult NOT to believe in a grand architect of the universe. COVID, the political bullshit going on here, the climate change issues we have – they are all simply messages, I believe, from that grand wizard from up above: pay attention to your health, find our moral compasses and follow them, and take better care of our planet. All of this is a big wake-up call, and I believe it was sent by someone a heck of a lot bigger than any of us. But this mess can and will be fixed – and it will be a bit easier to see all of that beauty that surrounds us each day – that we may take for granted or ignore. So take a moment each day to stop what you are doing and appreciate what you have. And then take a moment to remember the special people you have – and had – in your life. For who we are is a combination of the environment that we live in and those with whom we choose to live in it with. I can tell you from my years of experience being a part of his family – Bernardo was a great person to have in your personal circle. His family was better and stronger because of him, and he was a better man because of them. That’s a fact.
Regardless of what religion you are and what each of you believe lays ahead after we leave these mortal coils, it is our mortality that makes this life so damn special. Why? Because if there was no expiration date stamped somewhere on us in invisible ink, each day wouldn’t be a gift; instead, it would be an item on a checklist that has no final step. We’d lack any sense of urgency to improve the lives of the people around us, as well as our own. So in a way, while I myself am not looking forward to passing on, there’s a very small part of me that’s happy about the fact that one day I will…for it is that fact that gets me up in the morning with the drive to move the needle on goals I find important on a daily basis. Mortality – in a weird way – is a factor in any levels of success we may have as humans here on Earth. Mortality breeds a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency is key to an individual’s personal evolution.
As a mortal, death scares me not because of any pain I may feel; instead, the fear originates from the possibility that I – as a man – didn’t matter. I didn’t make a difference. Did I do everything to the best of my ability, with the time allotted? Will I be remembered….or just recalled…and will those memories bring joy to others, or anger. While I may have these fears constantly festering inside of me, I can honestly say that Bernardo was able to go to his final rest knowing that he will be remembered – by many – OFTEN – and in the best of ways. I think of my grandparents all of the time with great joy, spilling stories that sound way too funny to actually be true – but they all are. I think of the man that lived across the street from me and treated me like his own son – Edward Esposito – and I call my buddy and recount story after story of our times together. And I am POSITIVE that I will be able to share stories with my daughter about her Abuelo all the time, and we both will wind up laughing. That’s guaranteed.
When an important person in your life passes on, we are left with memories – and lessons. The memories are easy to conjure up in your head. The lessons….well…they can be forgotten over time. So here’s what I am reminded of on this day:
None of know when our expiration date is.
Yesterday is history and tomorrow’s a mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why we call it the Present – so treat it as such.
Follow your moral compass – there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing, and there’s never a right time to do the wrong thing.
When you make an honest mistake, own up to it. Apologize. Then try harder.
Tell the people in your life just how much they mean to you. You never know when your last conversation with another person will be – so make every one of them meaningful, positive, and important.
Life’s too damn short to hold grudges – they are a gigantic waste of time and energy.
Some people want to be rich. Others crave fame. Both of those things end when you pass on. Instead, be SIGNIFICANT – help others achieve their goals.
I’m going to wrap this up with one final statement: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for his loss, because that’s what saddens me – the world lost a really good guy. I’m sorry for the pain that the family feels over this loss. And I am sorry for all of my failures while I was a part of the family.