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Thursday, March 28, 2013

what we remember in the end

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Yesterday they buried Manny.

My friend Tracey had texted me to tell me about his death and at the end of her message she said, “(hearing about his death) made me so sad.”

I immediately knew what she meant. For a moment I sat motionless while I stared at my IPhone screen and felt the impact of her words. Sweet, gentle Manny had died. In a split second I was flooded with tender images of another era in my life, a world before text messaging and driving licenses and husky voices and the smell of man-sweat.

It was a little boy world. When my laundry basket had small blue and white uniforms inside it and the backseat was filled with high pitched laughter and food wrappers, and each morning there was the daily drop-off at St. Mel’s Elementary School, where my boys grew up from kindergarten through eighth grade.

This is the world where I knew Manny.

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I’d usually run into Manny on my way back to my car in the mornings. I’d see him pushing his janitor cart in the hallway with his classroom keys dangling loudly on his chain. Or he’d be happily digging among his masses of rose bushes in the front of the school.

“Hey Les,” he’d call out when he saw me coming. “How’s your roses doing?”

Most of the time I didn’t even have roses planted but I’d stop and talk. Because Manny was one of those stable fixtures in your surroundings that makes your world feel normal. Being greeted with his twinkling eyes and his warm smile was part of my life back than, just like the hurried flow of the car pool lane and the Friday morning Masses led by the students.

But Manny was so much more than the school handyman and janitor.  He was one of those people that was everyone’s friend. He was a wee-sized man who walked with a slow gait and had vision problems and diabetes but he always seemed to be on his way to fix something. Or to unlock a door for someone. And he’d never miss a moment to stop and chat. To look you in the eye and ask you how you were. To tell you about his secret tip for growing roses ( manure), or his latest marinade for his tri tip steak, which was his pride.

Manny was the reliable softness at a school that was run by up-tight women with stiff smiles. He made hamburgers on Fridays for the kids, and talked with them in the same kind, respectful tone he’d use with adults. Funny how quickly kids can recognize genuineness.

Because the kids loved Manny.

So the other night as I got ready for bed, I texted Patrick to tell him about Manny’s death.

I knew he’d react but I was still caught off guard by his flurry of text messages:

Noooo that’s sooooo sad.

How did he pass?

When’s his funeral?

I would love to have gone.

This is very upsetting, he was one of the nicest people ever. 

I can’t find his obituary?.

How do you spell his last name?

I was in bed when he texted me the copy of Manny’s obituary that he’d found.

 

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And then, because I knew he was sad and we were so far apart I texted these words in the dark:

I’m so sorry honey, I know it’s sad. But you can write in his guest book, I did.

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The next morning when I woke

I saw a screen shot of his guest book entry he’d sent me at 11: 30 p.m.

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Patrick’s words made me stop and think.

He’d been an eighth grader when he last saw Manny but his warm feelings had remained after all these years.

What a lesson.

In this day and age where everyone is trying to connect with the masses through social media, to showcase their wonderful lives on their Facebook page, to capture an audience with interesting, strategized blog posts and to impress followers with clever tweets…

Manny was a lesson about genuine connections.

In a world hung up on defining yourself with a unique brand and projecting a certain image, Manny was a throw-back to a time when you didn’t do things to get noticed.

In the middle of a rushed morning, he stopped and made eye contact. He smiled. He asked about you. He laughed about nothing in particular. He made you slow down long enough to gaze at the beauty of his latest rose bloom. He treated the kids with gentleness.

I thought about Patrick who is now a twenty year old college student living hundreds of miles away. And how he felt jolted by sadness for a man he hadn’t seen in years. I imagined him scanning his IPhone in search of Manny’s obituary while his girlfriend sat nearby. And how he took the time to write in a guest book at 11:30 at night for a school janitor that he never forgot.

Because of his simple kindness.

It’s amazing what we remember in the end.

 

xoxo

Leslie

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This post is in honor of Manny. If you would like to sign his guest book please click HERE.

 

I’m linking up with these friends, please stop by:

23 comments:

simone said...

This was beautiful, I cried reading it.

Wonderful when someone touches lives just by being a particular way.

It reminded me of someone local to me who didn't work but who spent a lot of time walking around & would always greet everyone - he was known throughout north London where I live for this greeting which was the same whoever he was talking to. He passed away last year....I was told about this by someone who just mentioned it in passing, when she told a group of us we all knew exactly who he was even though we all knew him from different locations & different years. The other day I was on Facebook & saw that a friend had mentioned him, it's quite incredible how many people he knew.

You wrote this beautifully Leslie and it says much for your son that he went online & wrote such lovely words. I am sure Manny's family will receive many such stories.

Have a lovely East week-end Xx

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Manny clearly touched many hearts - proof positive that a gentle smile and a kind word can have a lasting impact. Rest in peace Manny. ... And you Leslie clearly raised a kind, caring and sensitive son!

Jill Flory of Sew a Fine Seam said...

So beautiful. I need reminded often that my friends and children will remember the time I spent with them not all the projects I accomplished.

ℳartina @ Northern Nesting said...

Manny clearly was a wonderful man and you gave him a beautiful tribute Leslie!

Gypsy Heart said...

Such a beautiful memory for a wonderful person ~ made my eyes leak. You can tell how warm and kind he was by his sweet smile and gentle eyes. I think your son is quite a treasure to have been so concerned late at night and leave such a sweet message.

Thank you for sharing! We all need to really take the time to "just be" with others.

xo
Pat

June G. said...

Thank you, Leslie. How sad for Manny's family, the children of the school and all who knew this wonderful man. And yes, you raised a fine young man. I'm sure two.

Have a Blessed Easter :)

Kim Gibson said...

I'm so very touched by this post, by Patrick's response to the passing of this kind man who once was a constant in his life. Manny was the real deal.

Yvonne @ StoneGable said...

Leslie, This was such a personal and beautifully sentimental post... a loving tribute to a very kind man who touched your family in small but important ways. I'd say that Manny's life was a life well lived!

Thank you for sharing through Manny's life the importance of kind acts and personal interaction in this very impersonal world.

I was so struck by you sadness as it reminded me that Jesus was sad and frustrated at death for his friend Lazerus!

I pray for your family and Manny's. God bless you and comfort you!

michele said...

So heartwarming to hear about how kindness and love never really die and the importance of focusing on others in order to achieve true happiness. Sounds like Manny understood that well. I also think it's wise to think about what our own obituaries will read so that we can live with intention now while we have the chance. mine has been written for many years (someday I may share it).

hugs to you and your tender son.

michele

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

This is a very sweet tribute...he sounds like a wonderful man...and his kind spirit shines through in his photo!

Something Nice and Pretty said...

Sure made my eyes tear up, he was a great man and your son knew it, even after all the years it still touched his heart!

Dayle @ A Collection of This and That said...

What a beautiful tribute to Manny. How wonderful to know he left imprints on the hearts of those who knew him.

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

What a warm smiling man and your son has your beautiful spirit! Xx

Pam said...

Oh, my. I'm crying as I'm reading this. What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. Sounds like he was living his life the right way.

thistlewoodfarm said...

Oh Leslie,

You made me cry. This post touched the very center of my heart. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.

blessings,
karianne

Sarah said...

This one brought tears to my eyes as well. What a beautiful tribute to Manny. I've said this before......so happy I found Gwen Moss. The Mark Twain quote is one I'll remember. Thanks for sharing this experience!
Wishing you a Happy Easter Weekend.....Sarah

Lori said...

Oh Leslie ~ there are those people who live on in our hearts even though we do not see them any more. Patrick's entry into the guestbook shows what a great young man you have raised and I know you are proud. This is a beautiful post ~ sending hugs across the miles.

Carol Cook said...

As I read about Manny, this quote came to mind.

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”
― Flavia Weedn

You are like that in the lives of your followers. You always leave something to make us think and want to be better people.

Happy Easter.

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Leslie, This is a beautiful tribute to Manny and the many people he touched. You can see he was a very kind and gentle man just by looking at his picture.
Hugs,
Sherry

Holly Browning said...

I am touched by kindness in people - more that what they do or who they are. A good legacy to leave behind, Manny. A lesson to all. Kindness matters.

Anonymous said...

What wonderful memories of Manny so many people will carry with them. Tears whilst I read it. I wish I had know him.

Monica said...

Leslie this made me cry. It's amazing when people leave such a profound mark on this world for simply being themselves. I'm so glad that you had the chance to know him - and your boy's words made me think "he is clearly Leslie's son!!".

Thank you for taking the time to share Manny's story. xo

Kristi said...

I am sitting here sobbing basically. Thank you for sharing this story. I had a very similar special man in our lives. We were in Pine Grove Elementary school and our janitors name was Sonny. And everyone adored him. I felt like I was reading about him. :*)
Kristi

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