We all make plans and dream of reaching certain goals. We usually take for granted that the people we love will take part in the realization of those dreams. But we cannot predict the future. We do not know who we will lose along the way. It is bittersweet to celebrate an accomplishment when someone we love is no longer present to share it with us. But some people never leave us, even when they die. Some people leave a legacy, and a legacy lives forever.
Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the Cuban-American Bar Association’s annual installation gala. CABA is a non-profit association founded by lawyers of Cuban descent. This evening we were there to honor and witness the installation of our cousin’s fiancée, Javier Lopez, as president of the organization. Although we were happy to celebrate this achievement in Javi’s life, it was not until we arrived at the party that we fully grasped how big a deal this night was for our cousin-in-law. This was one of those nights you want to share with those you love most. This was one of those bitter-sweet moments.
The event, themed Avenue of Time, was spectacular. Guests were greeted by antique Cuban cars, a wall cleverly decorated with boxes of Cuban cigars, and waiters in Cuban garb passing around mini tamales en casuela. Men in tuxedos and women in gowns enjoyed unusually cool weather in Miami, and photographers documented every moment. Palm trees adorned the tables in the ballroom, and traditional Cuban food was served in a modern American style—fusing the two cultures. It did not escape us as we greeted judges, attorneys, and other professionals, that all these people were gathered to honor our friend and family member.
When the ceremony began, I was surprised to see Javier’s mother, Mercy, walking up to the stage. I imagined a past-president or other CABA member would introduce Javi, but the president-elect chooses who will swear them in to office. Javi’s mother beamed. She was eloquent and firm as she captured the attention of the eleven-hundred audience members. Mercy told the story of a younger Javi who, 10 years before, had come to his parents’ house to tell them he had become a CABA board member. He shared his goal to serve on the board for 10 years and his hope to be elected to be its president in 2016. Javi told his father that if he was elected, it would be him, his father, who would swear him into office.
But Asis, Javi’s father, had passed away four years earlier.
My husband and I stood close to the stage. Mercy described Asis as the “pillar of his family.” My husband’s eyes welled as he watched this ceremony from the lens of a father. His heart cringed at the thought of not being there to see any of our sons’ important milestones.
Mercy hugged her son and then allowed him to take the spotlight. Javi gripped the edges of the lectern and addressed the crowd:
“Life is about los momenticos (the little moments),’ my father used to say.” Javi spoke about this momentico and what it represented in his life. I smiled as his words brought that profound saying back to me.
I, personally, did not know Asis well. In fact, I only spent some time with him during one weekend in which his family invited ours to stay in their house in the Florida Keys. Our cousin and Javi had begun dating seriously and the invitation was a kind gesture to unite the families. Asis was the kind of person that made you feel like you were family, even if you barely knew him. He had a warm spirit and contagious energy. Asis left a lasting impression on all of us.
On the chalkboard I keep in my kitchen to teach vocabulary and concepts to my children, I remembered scrawling Asis’ wisdom to inspire my children to appreciate the beautiful moments life has to offer.
My focus shifted back to Javi as I heard him repeat another nugget of wisdom his father imparted on him
“You will do well, if you do good.”
Javi honored his father’s values and implored his colleagues to use their prestigious professions to do good—to help those in need. As Javi’s words brought his father to life, I thought to myself, Asis has left a legacy.
Asis did not live a long life. He died at 56. But while he was on this Earth, he savored the momenticos and he did good. He was a good husband, father, friend, and businessman. True to his words, Asis also did well. His four children are doing the same. The seeds Asis planted blossomed into men and women who do good and value the special moments in life. These values will trickle down to Asis’ grandchildren, born and unborn.
While it was sad that Javi’s father was not there to physically swear his son into presidency, it was moving to see how much Javi made his dad a part of the ceremony. Asis filled the room with his presence.
My husband took a deep breath and held my hand. “I can only hope that our sons will remember me the way Javi remembers his father,” he whispered. The indelible mark you leave on your children will journey on even after you’ve shuffled off your mortal coil. What a privilege and a responsibility that is for all of us.
As for Asis, he will always be there, even though he’s not, reminding us to relish in life’s momenticos.