Monday Morning Mojo – Life Lessons from Uncle Mario

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by Tom Tognoli

mojo marioTheir whole life is focused on accumulating stuff…trying to get ahead. Yet, no matter how much they accumulate they never seem to be able to fill that void…they are never happy and they are never satisfied…sound familiar? Unfortunately it is the way most of us live our lives. We are focused on making more money, getting a promotion, getting a bigger house, driving a nicer car, getting our kids into that elite private school, etc. The list could go on and on. Unfortunately, no matter how much we accumulate none of that “stuff” will define who we are and none of that “stuff” will really make us happy in the end. Because it is not the important stuff in life, it is not the answer to living a Purpose Driven Life. If we want to have an amazing and fulfilled life we all could take a few lessons from my Uncle Mario.

In the final weeks of his life as he was in hospice at the Veterans Hospital in Palo Alto, there was a constant stream of people coming and going. I don’t think I was ever in the hospital when there was not at least 6 or 8 people there sitting with him. At one point there were so many people coming to see him they had to create rules so he was not overwhelmed. Although he was 84 years old there was never a moment he was alone. And until the last days of his life here on this earth he was sharing his pearls of wisdom on living a good life with the right priorities…Family, Friends and helping others.  He went peacefully with family at his bedside four years ago tomorrow…June 30, 2011.
In an era where the man was supposed to be tough and the ruler of the household and not show much emotion, my Uncle Mario bucked that trend. There was never a time I saw him that I was not greeted with a big smile, big kiss and a huge hug…he always made you feel special. And it was not just me, he was this way with everyone. He was one of the most positive, happy and loving people I have ever met. And he was a giver. He literally would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He did not live a lavish life style with big houses, fancy cars and all that “stuff.” He was a pretty simple guy who really understood what was most important in life…FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, and HELPING OTHERS.

In the final weeks of his life one of the things he continually pointed out to everyone is that you should never greet your family and friends with a handshake. It should always be with a big smile, hug and a kiss. He did that until the very end with everyone who came to see him. We can only hope and pray that when we are 84 we lived a life, and had such a positive impact on people that our hospital rooms are half as full as his was those final weeks. For me the most important lesson he taught me was to always make your Family priority #1 no matter what. Although he never said it, he also taught me by example not to try and be so cool…just go for it and let people know how you feel. Give them a hug and a kiss…it is actually pretty cool. If only there were more Uncle Mario’s in the world, the world would be a better place. So, if you want to have a really amazing and fulfilled life, take some lessons from Uncle Mario. I would say he pretty much nailed it.

I asked some of my family to share with me what they learned from Uncle Mario. Here is what they had to say:

  • I’ll always remember that Uncle Mario made sure to greet everyone with a warm hello and a smile (usually a hug and a kiss too!). That would be the life lesson I learned from him – it makes a difference.
  • He always liked to find out about other people. While he was in the hospital, he knew everything about the doctors and nurses, how many kids they had, where they were from. Mind you he did love to talk, but he made sure to ask a lot of questions! Before he went to the hospital a service guy came to the house to fix his dishwasher. My dad found out where he was from, and was so impressed that this young guy came from Central America, went to school to learn this trade, and was working hard for his family. He loved that kind of stuff.
  • He also thought that education was the most important thing for young people. When people talked about all the sports their kids were into, he would say that is great, but how do they do in school?
  • He always greeted everyone with a warm smile and a hello…it didn’t matter where he was, it could be at the grocery store or at the doctor’s office, everyone was treated the same. It sure amazed me how he could be so nice to people when he was in so much pain.
  • He thinks it’s important to make the most of your life while you are young, so you can enjoy what you’ve done with your life while you are alive to do it. He said that in relation to finding the ‘right’ house, and making it into what you want for your life/family/future goals. But I think it applies to a lot more.
  • As my older brother by six years he was always there to hold my hand, provide guidance and kick my butt when I needed it. He was more than a brother, he was my best friend. I loved him more than I can say and I know the feeling was mutual. As I mentioned to his two daughters before his passing, if the world had more Mario’s, we would all be living in a better place.
  • My father Mario taught me life lessons by the way he lived every day. He worked hard and took care of business, but always made time for his family and those special people in his life. He was positive, helpful, kind and loved to ask others about what was going on in their lives whether it was about the job, a special interest or family. I always felt validated and loved by Mario as I believe most people felt while Mario was in their life. He made everyone feel special.
  • Whether he knew you 2 seconds, 2 minutes, 2 hours, 2 days, or for years everyone had a sense that he cared what they were about. I guess the lesson is be present, don’t just show up for the show of it, care enough to get involved and be present in the moment and give a little of yourself. All of my friends that have met/knew him and Helen said he was the warmest most engaging person and they felt they knew him and that he knew them. When you engage people and are engaging it’s a better experience all the way around…needless to say everyone from the garbage man that used to take Andrew for a ride and pick up a beer from Mario (at 10:00 a.m.) in route…he engaged everyone!
  • Take your job seriously and do the best you can, but, acknowledge the reality that life is about enjoying every minute of it. Don’t take it all too seriously and live within your means. If you can’t afford it you do not need it. Always speak your mind and don’t ever betray your beliefs.
  • He always said to treat people in the manner in which you hoped to be treated by them. He was always kind to everyone and therefore everyone loved him. Honest and reliable are some other things I think of when I think of him. He was only my Uncle thru marriage, but he made me feel very much a part of the family, and loved no less.

These are all great lessons to live by. Do it and we will all have more Mojo than we know what to do with.

I hope you are hitting um straight in Heaven Uncle Mario!!!!!

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