Earlier this week I was announced as a 2015 Honoree for the Business Record's Forty Under 40. According to their website:
These 40 local business leaders, who were chosen by past award winners, are under the age of 40 and have demonstrated impressive career achievements and unparalleled community involvement.
This is a huge honor and I was surprised to be recognized. There have been very few Latinas who have been honored, although I know so many who are deserving, so I was touched and humbled to be selected. The person who nominated me is a phenomenal woman in her own right, and to think that she thought of me to follow in her footsteps means a lot to me. It was also bittersweet because I am also following in Warren's footsteps.
Warren received this honor in 2008. I remember going to the ceremony with him. I was SO proud to be there. I was beaming the whole time, feeling so fortunate to share in his moment. As he often did, he held my hand during most of the reception and whenever he was congratulated, he'd squeeze it a bit and tell the person that he wouldn't be there without my love and support. He looked at me with pride in his eyes, even though he was the one being celebrated. His praise embarrassed me and I asked him to stop, to just soak in the recognition. He hugged me and told me that he couldn't accept the praises without giving credit where credit was due. On our way home that night, he joked that he was going to nominate me so that he and I could make history as the first Latino husband and wife to be named Forty Under 40.
When nominations came around the next year we didn't talk about it, and knowing how busy he was, I doubt he had time to nominate anyone, myself included. I didn't think about it again until his funeral when someone (I think it was someone from Coopera, or the Iowa Credit Union League but I'm not sure) gave me his commemorative plaque that had been hanging in his office. Today, it is displayed on my wall, along with the newspaper articles about launching his company. I pass by it every single day but hadn't given it much thought in a long time.
The day I got the news that I was among this year's Forty Under 40, his joking words rang across like I had just heard them. His playful smile, his hand on my knee, the feelings I felt that day all flooded back. I couldn't help but think that perhaps he was doing a little work from afar to make his prediction come true, even though in my heart I don't believe that's how death works.
The excitement of the news was dampened by an overwhelming urge to see him, tell him, talk to him, see his smile again. It was a pull so strong that it twisted my insides and it took an hour of yoga to feel like I could breathe normally again.
That's how good news is to me. It comes with the weight of knowing that the first person I want to share it with is no longer here to rejoice with me. I know that I am blessed with wonderful people in my life who cheer me on, encourage me, and motivate me and I am not discounting them. But, I haven't gotten to the place where I don't think of Warren immediately when good things happen. This rattles me because it feels like a set-back, and a punch-in-the-gut reality check that my best friend is gone. I am hopeful that it will not always be this way. I am anxious for the day when good news, happy occasions and exciting celebrations bring me deep joy. I long for the day when it connects me to Warren with genuine exuberance that isn't tainted by feeling the loss, but gracious that he set so many things in motion that led to my happiness. I want for the day when I see all the positives that come my way as an extension of what we had. I can't wait to smile again with a happiness that is pure and celebrate with a light heart, because I know that is what he always wanted for me.
So, remembering his pride, his smile and his quip about making history, I choose to follow his example. I am thrilled to be honored, but I will not forget to give credit where credit is due. This comes on the backs of many who believed in me, who saw passion in what I did and who took the time to express what they saw. I accept this as an indicator to pass it forward and pay tribute to the legacies of all those who work tirelessly to improve this world for everyone in it.
|Warren receives his Forty Under 40 award|