Have you ever thought about how you might be remembered? I sometimes wonder if I will be remembered!
Recently I attended a memorial service for a dear friend. As always, there’s a sadness at a memorial service, despite the full church, the beautiful tributes, the outstanding reception…all things he would have loved. All were a tribute to him, only he wasn’t physically there. Yet I could see that his legacy of openness, warmth and his welcoming spirit were very much there, reflected in his family. He left behind a beautiful, loving family and a legacy of trust, generosity and kindness, which were part of what he was.
What struck me once again is how important family is, how fragile life is, and how strong love is.
It brought home many thoughts about life in general and left me wondering who would remember me. And were I to be remembered, what about me would they remember? What we leave behind is something most of us don’t like to think about, me included, but it’s not too late to do something about we want to leave behind. It’s important and has an impact on how we live our lives today.
As I looked around, I thought, “Look at what he left behind.” In the recesses of my mind I remembered a quote I had once read…I believe it was by the famous psychologist, Eric Ericson, that said, “You are what you leave behind.”
I’m sure you all have lost someone you loved or cared about at some time in your life. No doubt their passing left a vacant spot in your heart, a spot that now can only be filled with memories.
Although they’re no longer physically available, interesting things can happen with memories. If you extract the lessons learned from that person through your memories you will find gifts that are yours for the taking.
I’ll give you a couple of examples:
My Mom would have been 100 years old this month. Mothers are our first teachers. They help form our personalities and the way we are to a great extent. In the end, she left behind who she was…the mother of five children, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren…all the results of the 92 years of her life. Her legacy? A sense of fun and a great sense of humor. All five of us took that as our special gift.
My Best Friend for many years. I still think about her every time I go to one of the many neighborhoods where we lived in San Francisco as young, single 20-year olds. I don’t think I ever heard her criticize anyone in all the time I knew her. I always smile when I think of her and her down-to-earth way of seeing the best in people. I’m still working on that and sometimes ask myself, “Now what would she have done?”
I invite you to think about three persons you have lost, what your memories are about that person, and write down what gifts they left behind for you? When I did this, I felt a sense of gratitude and wondered what I would leave behind for my sons and grandchildren. What kind of an example or impact will I have in their lives? What lessons and gifts will I leave behind?
Usually we’re not aware of the impact we have on others, whether it’s positive or negative. The great news is that with understanding that who you are is what you leave behind, there’s time to make sure that what you leave behind is a rich legacy filled with love.
Sociologist Anthony Campolo tells about a study in which 50 people over the age of 95 were asked one question: “If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?” Three things consistently emerged:
• Reflect more
• Risk more
• Do more things that would live on after I am dead.
If you want to create an intentional legacy, you need to rethink your priorities.”
And we can start today!