A Remarkable Example: In Loving Memory of Vincent Mendes de Franca, 1937 - 2021
When we are young, we look in a forward-facing direction. We seek education, occupations, and capital, all in the service of an imagined future. Like vehicles on a freeway, we don’t take time to appreciate our surroundings as we single-mindedly forge ahead.
I knew my grandfather Vincent Mendes de Franca as somebody who had mastered the ability to exit the freeway - to slow down and give his love and attention to the present, and most importantly to the people that surrounded him.
When Grandpa married my grandmother Rita Duarte in 1959 at the age of twenty-two, I can only assume that neither had any idea how much love, beauty, and joy would later result from their indestructible union. Over six decades later, Rita cherishes Vincent’s memory along with five children, sixteen grandchildren, countless relatives, friends, and colleagues who all had the fortune of connecting with him.
Grandpa’s life did not have stately beginnings. Growing up in Georgetown, Guyana, with chickens in the backyard and no refrigerator, Grandpa’s childhood was rich only in the connections he shared with his parents, siblings, and friends. Vincent climbed expertly from this modest start, eventually moving his family to Toronto when he became president in a large division of a multinational corporation. This being said, Grandpa never placed his career on a higher pedestal than his loved ones. When given the opportunity of a position overseas, he made the decision to stay in Canada and retire to best serve those who he held dear: his wife and children.
On January the 5th, 2021, part of Vincent Mendes de Franca was taken from us. I will no longer be greeted warmly as Jacobo and given a firm fatherly abrazo. I won’t be able to ask Grandpa about his successes and regrets in a life well-lived. What does remain after Grandpa’s time on Earth is a remarkable example of a man who regarded what was truly valuable.
Our lives must move forward. To live in this society, we must continue to seek education, find occupations, and generate capital. I hope, however, that anyone reading this will take a page from Vincent’s book. I hope that you’ll take time to slow down, exit the freeway, put your life in park, and love people in the present, as they are.