I can’t remember who spoke at my high school graduation in May of 2011. I remember giving the salutatorian address, hearing my peer give his valedictorian speech, receiving my diploma, praying with my family, and… that’s about it. It’s all a bit of a blur.
However, since my college graduation in May, I can still remember who our commencement speaker was and what stood out to me in her speech.
Arcilia Acosta graduated from Texas Tech in 1989 and is now the founder, CEO and president of CARCON Industries and Construction. She has been nationally recognized as an entrepreneur, speaker and philanthropist and is a great inspiration to many women in the United States. You can read more about Arcilia Acosta here.
Source: Texas Tech University
Arcilia is a very accomplished woman, as you can see, but that’s not what stuck out to me at my commencement ceremony. She said she didn’t want to follow the typical focus of most inspirational speakers. She didn’t want to tell us to “dream big” or “follow your heart”. Instead, she focused on how people would remember us when we passed away. She had us ask ourselves the question, “How do I want to be remembered?”. She asked what we wanted said about us in our eulogy. She inspired us to live our best life and to be the best version of ourselves.
Now, you may be wondering why I’m talking about my commencement speaker when I graduated about a month and a half ago. I have a good reason.
June 25, 2015.
On this date, a little past 3 a.m., my aunt Jennie went to be with the Lord. She had been battling brain cancer since March 2013 and was recently diagnosed with another rare and very aggressive form of cancer. In my opinion, she definitely beat cancer, because what’s better than going home to be with Jesus for the rest of eternity?!
However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard for those of us who have been left behind. It has been heartbreaking for me to watch my family go through this difficult time. I am so thankful that Jennie is healed and is at peace, but we do miss her.
Jennie and I didn’t spend a lot of time together. We probably texted more than we actually talked. Growing up, I was always a little scared of her honestly. She would probably laugh if I told her that. But if you knew her, you know she was fiery, witty, outgoing, stubborn and just had quite the personality. And if you know me, you know I’m the complete opposite (besides the stubborn part…)! So she wasn’t the quiet and gentle spirit that I was accustomed to being around, but that made her the life of the party (and family gatherings).
But I soon grew up and matured some and I learned to interact with different personality types. And even though I still saw Jennie as a fiery, outgoing woman, I saw her as someone with a lot of passion and lots of love to give. This showed even more when she was diagnosed with cancer. She poured out all of the time. Everywhere she went she was smiling and encouraging others. I received text messages several times asking how I was, how my doctor appointments had gone, and telling me to take my pills and do my treatments!
We became buddies-asking how the other was doing and if we were following our treatment plans. She supported me and encouraged me probably a lot more than she knows.
Jennie loved her family, it was very apparent. But, she has an even bigger family that stepped up to surround her with love and encouragement when she was diagnosed. Jennie worked for the Texas Tech football office with coaches, players, and Raider Recruiters for almost 29 years. Her life was dedicated to TTU football. She was affectionately known as “Mama Bailey” or “Mamma B” and she called every player one of her “kids”.
I know my family and I were overwhelmed with the outpouring of sweet words about Jennie from current/past players, coaches, and even parents of the players! So many people had such wonderful things to say about her. She was loved by so many.
It is very obvious that Jennie lived a full life. Her funeral was held Monday and there were hundreds of people that came to say their good-byes. Kliff Kingsbury, the TTU football team, and Josh Abbott were there, just to name a few. The impact that she had on every single person’s life will never be forgotten. Her life inspires me to live my life even more abundantly and to cherish each moment.
Jennie was remembered for how well she loved others.
“‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.'” -John 13:35 (NIV)
Arcilia Acosta was right when she told us to be our best selves. I don’t care if I’m remembered for any of my accomplishments, whatever those may be. I want to be remembered for how I treated others, loved others, and above all, how my relationship with Christ affected my life.
Jennie was able to love others so well because she first loved Christ. She believed in Him and His plan for her and every time she had a setback health-wise, she would say, “God has a plan, let’s just go with it!” (or something like that 🙂 ) She never complained, and anyone will tell you that.
Jennie, we love you and we miss you. But praise Jesus we will see you again someday! Guns up!