When I was a kid, and even as an adult, Eddie would always address me as “mijo” whenever he was giving me direction or whenever he was trying to give me a pep talk. “Mijo, go do your homework.” “Mijo, call your mom, she needs to hear your voice.” “Mijo, I love you, but you need to learn to close the cabinets.”
One of the last conversations I had with Eddie before he got sick was a phone call after I had a rough day of work. I can’t remember the exact situation, but I remember Eddie telling me, in his typical calm demeanor, “mijo, if you’re trying your best and treating people right, it’s going to be fine.” Eddie wasn’t the most loquacious person, but this kind of response was classic Eddie: kind, well intentioned, and supportive.
It took me nearly 8 months, but earlier this week I finally finished Sheryl Sanberg’s book, Option B. For anyone that is working through their grief, there’s so much to take in and learn from the book. Personally, the book allowed me to explore my own grief in losing Eddie and provided me with a much-needed new outlook on life without him.
In the book, Sheryl talks about how grief doesn’t share its schedule with anyone, and we all grieve in our own time, in our own way. Through reading the book, I was able to discern that my grief in losing Eddie has been both palpable and intangible. The palpable moments are rare and episodic, and typically surface in spontaneous moments when I stumble upon a photo or video of Eddie. But I also learned my grief manifested subconsciously and started to creep into my daily life.
It wasn’t until I was deep into this book that I came to the realization that the energy and drive I used to wake up with daily had dwindled. Complacency was foreign to me; I’ve always been high energy (border line annoying), ambitious, and curious. There’s a chapter “Bouncing Forward” where Sheryl shares an anecdote about a physician, Joe Kasper, who, after losing his son to a rare form of epilepsy, finds resilience in taking action to be a part of his son’s legacy. Joe created a concept called “co-destiny” which effectively is a framework to view a loved one’s death in a larger context so that death doesn’t become the end of the story.
Eddie and my mom have always been at the core of my motivation. The sacrifices they made in raising me, their work ethic, their character. It’s always been my why. I didn’t know it, but part of me lost that motivation on August 3rd, 2020. Those conversations with Eddie, the subtle “mijo, step up, you can do it”, were calibrators that would point me back to my why. But it was the story about Joe Kasper that exposed what’s been missing.
In the last sentence of the book Sheryl writes about the impact her deceased husband had on her: “I am better for the years we spent together and for what he taught me — both in life and in death”. This is when it all clicked for me. I lost Eddie, but I didn’t lose the many lessons he taught me. I didn’t lose memory of the sacrifices he made for me. I didn’t lose my why. So, moving forward, like Joe Kasper, it is my mission to carry on Eddie’s legacy.
The best way to keep Eddie’s legacy alive is to show up every day and subscribe to the very principles and values that were core to his character:
Eddie was always authentic and true to himself and to others.
He put integrity over everything. His words matched his actions, and he was always honest.
He had subtle confidence in that he knew what was important and what wasn’t. He could care less about trying to impress others. The man wore a fanny pack 7 days a week.
He had a selfless impulse and would do anything to make sure the people he knew and loved were taken care of.
He had dogged determination and was the hardest working person I’ve ever met.
He yearned for new experiences, he was so excited to retire and travel more with my mom.
He had infinite love and compassion for his family and close friends.
He had resilience. Because he knew, if you were living all these values, you could weather the difficult times of adversity, failure, or rejection.
Eddie wasn’t perfect. Who is? But he showed up every day aligned to these values. And as I celebrate Eddie on Father’s Day with this rejuvenated perspective and motivation, I can’t wait to continue to carry his legacy onward. Mijo’s back.
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By the way, on Father’s Day last year I wrote about how Eddie would get custom t-shirts printed with unique sayings. Well, I found the picture at the top of the page nestled in my mom’s phone a couple of months back. What a legend.