I have the privilege of being a steward of a place where people can come and succeed based on who they are at their core, rather than who they are or are not in this world. Where grit, moxie, and a “can-do” attitude mean more than all the gold in Fort Knox. And it is in this place that I first was introduced to Lilly Sanchez, and it was in this place that I was able to watch Lilly flourish. It’s here that she transformed into the person she was meant to be.
So often, Krav Maga training peels back the layers of conformity and bluster and reveals people in their truest form, and for Lilly this meant revealing much of herself, leaving behind the pain of the past, and growing to trust a group of people outside her immediate family.
As she came to trust the instructors at Krav Maga Houston, we saw that we could trust her. And eventually Lilly was, for lack of a better term, adopted as a sister by the KMH instructors. Lilly thrived – she had found a place to belong that was hers to keep forever. She proved herself to be dedicated, committed, courageous, trustworthy, and loyal.
Lilly grew on a personal level and became an amazing advocate for other people – she inspired men, mentored women, and encouraged children. Lilly became a trusted friend and fell under the watchful and protective eye of those that had come to love her for her true self.
It’s a rare thing in this world to find someone that one can truly rely on, to find another person as dedicated to you as you are to him or her. When we find it, we hold onto it, and we protect it. It’s called a family. Lilly was a big part of our Krav Maga Houston family. Not the kind that salesmen and politicians talk about, but more the – 3am, stuck in ditch, in the middle of nowhere so I called YOU – kind of family.
In this life, so few people find a second family to accept and love them as they are, and I take heart in the knowledge that Lilly thrived in the love her second family showered upon her. We loved her and cheered for her and hoped for her – just like families do. Lilly knew she was loved by people that weren’t required – by birth or blood – to do so. And I believe she loved that the most.
As I think of Lilly’s battle with cancer, I am truly astonished. Her attitude, her courage, and her concern for the people she loved quickly became transparent. She was simply amazing in the truest sense of the word.
At some point in life, it becomes clear to us all that control of what happens to us and around us is an illusion. We learn that real courage is forged in facing life’s obstacle and hardships head-on, while real control is found in how we decide to respond to those hardships.
Lilly knew these truths, and in the last months of her life, she began to communicate and write in ways that illustrated how much her spirit was maturing. Lilly began to love each continuing moment of her life. Each breath was a celebration. She transformed once again before our eyes.
When she passed, I had seen a woman who became much of the best of what we all hope to be. That was our LillyBean. Her funeral was attended by hundreds of people, many of them from the Krav Maga Houston community. We are all mourning her loss and huddling together to find some measure of comfort in the memories we share with each other about Lilly.
Lilly received an honorary Black Belt from Krav Maga Worldwide for displaying the kind of character, determination, and grace that make this award worth working towards and obtaining over many years of trial and training. Darren Levine has signed it, and so have I. I know she loves that too.
To keep her memory fresh and alive, you will see her Black Belt and other awards hanging in a place of honor at Krav Maga Houston. We will always remember Lilly, until we see her again.
God Bless Lilly and keep her always.