Nowadays, trophies are easy to come by. In little league kids are receiving trophies for participation; ultimately setting them up for the un-realistic perception that there is an award for everything in life whether you are the best or worst at it. This false glorification is a set-up for failure, or gives a false sense of self, which is worse.
Trophies have to continuously be polished because they fade; with time and with forgetfulness, they become irrelevant. The only trophies that ultimately matter are the ones that etch your name in history; the ones that leave a mark for others to remember. I think about the people who've passed the last decade of my life. They've all had an influence on me in someway. I want to share the significance of two special trophies that I still polish everyday.
My Aunt Fatto was fierce. She was a firecracker and a bulldog when she needed to be; bad-to-the-bone. I can't think of anything she feared worst than being weak. If ever there were a catalyst for an untrained soldier, she was it. As tough as she was, she was one of the best mothers I've ever known. She was the second mother to so many of us in the family. She showed us things she felt we needed to know to survive in this world, and she gave us experiences that made us feel we never had a reason to feel less than anyone else.
The last few years of her life, she endured something that is truly remarkable. She survived brain surgery and lived past the expectations of the many medical experts that said it was impossible; they called it borrowed time, I call it HIS time. Through it all, she never lost her recognition of her family or her hardcore relentless attitude towards life. She fought tooth and nail just to be "Fatto"; for the freedom she'd lived all of her life.
The last time I saw her, she was in her room sitting on the floor. I went over to her, and patted her on the head. She looked at me and smiled; that little smirk at the edge of her mouth that I knew so well. I extended my hand to her, and like clock work she extended hers. We did our special "what's up" handshake. Rhythmic and smooth, my Aunt Fatto let me know she was still there. She died the next day.
When I got the news, shock and pain crept inside of me; then something uplifting happened. I remembered that smile, those life lessons, and experiences she'd left me and so many others with. Her trophies didn't need to be tangible because they were eternal. She taught me how to be fierce; how to be daring and bold. Because of her, in the face of adversary I know that we all have to have a little "bulldog" inside to push us through.
Tottie... Tottie was my cousin and big sister. I spent the first half of my life idolizing her crazy, sexy, cool approach to life. Tottie was the type of person that raised the roof to a party, and sparked a room with her presence. She got her stubbornness and frugalness from her father, Uncle Marvin. She could stretch a dollar for a week, and would stake her ground when she believed she was right. I admired those qualities.
She taught me it's ok to have flaws, but the way you carry yourself should be as close to flawless as you can get. She helped me grow from a little tomboy to a woman. It wasn't that she sat me down and schooled me on the ins and outs of beauty, it was through my observation of her that I learned. When it came to being a woman, she practiced what she preached. She taught me that relationships may come and go, but that's ok as long as you don't lose yourself with them. Tottie was my hommie, my big sister, and my best friend; in many ways she still is.
When Tottie passed, I lost something special in my life and at the same time I gained something I will always have. Her death opened my eyes to how precious life is. We have a choice to live day by day or to skip days living because we allow ourselves to become trapped in our bad days. I have racked my brain for years, and I can't remember a time that Tottie allowed her worse days to be her next day. In fact, even on her worst days she found a way to smile; a way to make others smile; a way to turn-up any situation. She will always be present in my life; she left trophies that I still polish everyday.
The mindset of these women is iconic to me. Everyone could use a taste of both their qualities in their life. Resilience comes from confidence in who you are; in what you stand for; in who you want to be. I think about the trophies I will leave behind, and I wonder if I can have half as much impact as these women did on me.
If you need motivation, a purpose for LIVING, or something to be passionate about, remember the trophies in your life. And if you can't find any, start making your own; there is no participation award for not LIVING.