The mango-licious life is a life of resilience, a fierce resolve to live with fullness and purpose despite life’s servings of sweet and sour seasons. God knows some of us who have been through our fair share of tragedies savor the sweet, having known the scourge of the sour seasons. Yet still, we recognize those painful unpleasant seasons as part of life’s journey.
So why on earth would Tanya, The Mango Lady choose to write about a Mango-licious life? Full confession, I struggled to write this blog story. It’s not easy to talk about tragedy, failure or pain, let alone your own. Nonetheless October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month I’m reminded with every flash of “the pink pride” how blessed I am to still be alive. Having encountered my own brush with breast cancer a decade ago, I am humbled by the fragility of my own mortality. I recognize that I can’t just hoard my experience, and selfishly hide the grace of God when others can draw encouragement from the lessons learned after surviving my encounters.
My girls were just 1 and 2 years old when I discovered a lump in my breast. Like many women who have been diagnosed I endured the fluctuations of shock, denial, fear, sadness, anger, and finally acceptance. I accepted the fact that I had a fatal disease that could kill me. I knew if i didnt regain my focus, seek medical advice and take action, things could get worse.
Truthfully the diagnosis gave me a slap of reality that life owed me nothing. Even with my best efforts to eat right, exercise and be the poster child for health, I still got cancer! I remember thinking ” T, as long as you are living, there is a possibility of dying. Challenges and adversity are a guaranteed part of this life. So girl you better live!!”
I managed to survive cancer, had major surgeries, struggled through the dark days of chemo, shed weight (was skinny to begin with), lost every strand of hair and barely rebound only to face the agony of a divorce from a dysfunctional toxic marriage several years later. I was done…emotionally bankrupt. My life felt like shifting sand beneath my feet, taking me from levels of sweet to sour to bitter. The prayers and deep abiding love of my true friends and family kept me when I often felt like letting go during those dark uncertain seasons. Today I stand renewed, restored and refocused. I am a living testament to the power of prayer.
As challenging as some of my past seasons have been, I recognize that there are others who have gone through even deeper agony that left them debilitated, broken and stuck. Stuck in that place of hurt, regret and shame. Yet somehow there are others who have encountered tremendous adversity and still managed to bounce back with a fierce perseverance. I call this the mangolicious life. It’s like they drank a secret potion or discovered the sacred ingredients to being resilient. One such person is an amazing gentleman I met several weeks ago called Judah (alias to protect his identity and honor his desire for privacy).
Judah is a holocaust survivor i had the honor of meeting while visiting my mentor in Miami one morning. It’s one of those powerful chance encounters that leave an indelible mark on your heart. As we sat and chatted about life I remarked about being a cancer survivor. Judah shared that he too was a different kind of survivor. A holocaust survivor. His Jewish family had narrowly escaped the gas chambers in Hungary 80 years prior.
Although we had just met, hailed from vastly foreign worlds, represented different races, religion, age and gender, Judah and I quickly developed a special bond. In that moment we possessed an unexpected familiarity, a common thread that was relatable. We both endured tragedy, survived pain, overcame something significant and were undeniably GRATEFUL.
Judah’s account of the ordeal dates back to 1944 when he was only 13 months old. Since he was so young, much of his recollection came from stories told and retold by his parents and siblings. Hungary was initially an ally of Germany along with the other axis of nations who declared war against the west during World War 2. Eventually Hungary deflected and decided to pull away from the alliance.
Adolph Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany had a scorn against Jews and eventually invaded Hungary in 1944. He began a genocide against people of Jewish descent and his fascist agenda led to World War II and the deaths of at least 11 million people, including some six million Jews.
Judah’s father was a wealthy businessman who owned a factory near Budapest with over 200 workers. His father was a devout man who cared for his workers and ensured their families were taken care of. One day natzi soliders walked in and rounded up all the workers in the courtyard. They began detaining those of Jewish descent with the plan to kill them all. The workers loved and respected Judah’s father so they hid him in a safe place to prevent his dad and family from being captured.
The family narrowly escaped and stayed in hiding for almost a year. It was a tragic time for Jewish families and few gentiles would risk hiding a Jew for fear of being killed. The stakes were even higher for Judah’s family because they were travelling and moving from one home to another with an infant who would cry out or make spontaneous moves without warning. The family lived in a chronic state of anxiety, surviving off the kindness of what Judah described as “righteous gentiles” knowing they could be caught and killed at any point.
One afternoon their safe home was invaded and a group of soldiers searched through the home looking for jews with orders to shoot and kill on sight. Judah’s mom quickly fled to the yard and hid with her kids behind a stack of crates. She huddled low and counted every moment as though it was the last. Her thoughts were on her small innocent children. “God don’t let them find me and kill me before my children.” His mother thought. As she wiped both beads of sweat and streams of tears from her face, she could hear the steps of a soldier approaching. Mom slowly looked up and saw the barrel of a gun pointed towards her. She panicked and whispered a desperate prayer to God for a miracle.
The soldier stood motionless for a few minutes just staring at his mom, then staring at the kids, then back at mom. His mother said she could tell by the soldier’s expressions that his mind was in turmoil as he contemplated the ending of the story playing out before him. He perhaps thought “Should this Jewish mother and her kids die today? ” What would happen if anyone heard a german officer speared these Jews? The soldier took one last stare, held the gun firmly and without any warning, walked away. He beckoned to the group of soldiers and simply drove away. Never looking back or flinching. Judah’s mom and the kids were all frozen in fear and refused to move for sometime. Their lives were spared. They knew it was nothing but a miracle from God.
During the early 1940s over 725,000 Jewish residents lived in Hungary, with most of that population settling in the capital, Budapest. It’s estimated that the fastest deportations of the Holocaust took place in Hungary, where Hungarian police throughout the country worked with German authorities to send some 437,000 Hungarian Jews to death camps between 1943 to 1944.
The family has endless stories of the many miracles they encountered while hiding and living as fugitives during the holocaust. All of their other family members died except their immediate family. Eventually due to the efforts of folks like Raul Wallenburg, Judah and his family were able to escape the atrocities in Hungary, and headed to Sweden where they lived undercover as Swedish citizens. The family eventually moved to the United States where they have lived ever since and were able to eventually rebuild a successful business enterprise.
I draw strength from stories of folks like Judah who i consider to have lived a mango-licious life…folks who have gone through great adversity in their lives and still managed to bounce back and emerge as overcomers. Listening to Judah retell the stories of his family’s horrific encounter and reflecting on my own tragedies I realize there are certain main ingredients that most resilient folks share in common. Below I’ll leave you with some important lessons learned based on my chat with Judah, research I’ve done, as well as my own personal experience surviving life’s storms:
Mango-licious Living: Survivor Lessons
1. “Let adversity be your advisor and not your adversary.” Quote from my friend, author and speaker Michael Jackson (not the singer…Lol). We can learn a lot about ourselves when faced with a tragedy. Your patience, strength, faith and so much more is tested in the trial. Instead of becoming bitter use the learning experience to make you better. Reflecting and journaling about your experience can be a powerful and instructive tool. One season may very much prepare you for the next.
2. Good friends and family are better than pocket money – Jamaican proverb. Treasure them, with their flaws and all. There is value in knowing that some have already been through that passage and can comfort and guide you through your time of adversity. There is comfort and healing in knowing someone cares.
3. Wade through the waters of adversity with a positive attitude and bare a hopeful expectation that your season will eventually pass. Cheri Hill, author of the book, Faith Under Construction, said “it’s not yet over if you’re still going through.” When i asked Judah how his parents were able to survive the agony of the experience, he said they had a burning will to survive. Everyday they put one foot before the other. They had a deep abiding faith and refuse to quit. Never ever ever give up.
4. Seek freedom from bitterness, hatred, regret and anger. Going through adversity can make you angry at God, your spouse, friends or even yourself. Seek spiritual and emotional healing and leave room for peace, love and hope to enter in. Seek counseling or therapy if needed. At all costs, avoid negative, pessimistic people that can retard and stunt your recovery or growth. Sadly there are some demented folks who relish in the demise and failures of others. Pray for those folks and keep it moving.
5. Live with a mango-licious mindset. I will never forget Judah’s parting words to me. He said “every day i am alive is a gift.” Believe you are here for a God given purpose and #chooselife. We are not immune to adversity. The mango-licious mindset is being intentional about your living and accepting the fact that life ushers in ever changing seasons. So I encourage you to live a mango-licious life, and keep striving. Adopt a conscious resolve to make the best of your seasons, whether there’s radiant sunshine or its raining like hell. Believe by faith, that the best is yet to come and start living your mango-licious life today.
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