Leaving a legacy is talked about like it is a profound statement of one’s life, that they must have conquered demons, built churches in far-off lands, changed the world, or left millions of dollars to charity.
But what if legacy were more than that? What if legacy meant the person we are, the one beneath the skin. What if legacy meant kindness, consideration, generosity, or thoughtfulness? What if legacy were our soul?
Of course, legacy does rest beneath the examples I gave. After all, you can’t be a cruel person to want to change the world, can you? The thing is, not everyone has the means, or the desire, to do something like rebuilding a city in a far-off country.
I’ve been thinking about legacy lately, mostly in reference to what I own. I often wonder what would happen if I were to die today. Would people look at my home and be impressed by my amount of books? Would they see my clothing and shoes? Would they notice my organic shampoo? Do any of these things matter?
We all want to leave a legacy, something for others to remember us by. A few years ago, I lost an aunt and uncle (they were married). Their home was filled with stuff, rooms that couldn’t be entered, a garage containing boxes but never a car, and a basement with one small path leading to the washer and dryer.
They will probably be remembered for all their things, and a home that often couldn’t be entered. But their legacy was not their stuff. These two people were generous and kind. They were, as the old saying goes, ‘the salt of the earth.’ They laughed and told jokes, they reminisced, and gave me hugs when I so desperately needed them. Their legacy, without a doubt, was the remembrances of who they were. It was kindness and generosity.
I look around my home and still see plenty of ‘stuff,’ things that will mean nothing when I am gone. Family will toss junk, laying it to rest beneath piles of rubbish in a trash pit somewhere on earth. Some will be given to charity. And very few pieces will be kept for themselves. How do I know this? Because none of my earthly things are treasures, except to me.
I truly hope no one remembers me for what I owned. When I am gone, I hope I am remembered as someone who loved beyond borders, who rejoiced for others, and who wept. I hope others remember someone who cared for the elderly and children, whose family was the most important, and who held her husband’s hand, even when she was angry. I hope others know that I dreamt of a better world for not only my family, but every person left on earth. I hope they remember me as a survivor.
Legacy isn’t about ‘stuff.’ It’s great to leave money to help others when you are gone. It’s fun to receive family mementos and cherished trinkets. But what’s really important is this, what type of person will everyone remember?
What will your legacy be?