The last stanza from the poem Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
And it mostly comes down to this: how we live today.
Our legacy isn’t about how much money we pass on (although that also is nice, for those who can) or how public a life you’ve lived. Instead, it is understanding the impact you have on those around you and finding ways to do it better.
Lyndsay Green, Canadian sociologist, and author of The Well-Lived Life: Live with Purpose and Be Remembered, says it best:
“It’s about accepting responsibility that you’re important to people. Not taking our life and relationships seriously while we’re alive is doing a disservice to yourself and the people you have a connection with.”
What will your legacy say about you? For most of us, during the span of a lifetime, it may be mixed. We are fallible humans and rarely does anyone get it consistently right over four score years and two. (well, maybe my Mother😊 with her five score years))
Without using the word Legacy, I first encountered this idea when I was 41. That was the year I began my study of Japanese Psychology and during the course of a ten-day intensive workshop we had exercises to do around the question of “How Do You Want to be Remembered?”
The assignment was three-fold:
Imagine you died at xxx years, so I chose 100. Now write your Obituary, Eulogy and Epitaph. The latter is the pithy saying that might go on your grave marker. The Obituary is the facts. The Eulogy was the most fun. It was where we got to imagine and seriously reflect on what we wanted people to say about us after our death. In other words, how would we want to be remembered?
Obviously, this was sobering, but it was also life affirming. We weren’t thinking about dying today, tomorrow, or next year. In this exercise we could give ourselves however much time we wanted. It was an opportunity to really think about our life and the impact we wanted to make.
These eulogies got read out loud by someone else in the group, so you heard your own words with another voice. Some people had big life goals that would impact the lives of many. Others were modest.
The point was this:
You now had the chance to work towards making this be true. We were still alive, and we could ask ourselves the question: what do I need to do differently now, for this to be true??
Lyndsay Green writes:
“We are misreading the concept of legacy if we assume, we have a choice in the matter. We are building our legacy continuously by the way we lead our lives, whether consciously or not. The actions and contributions we make every day are the components that will structure our remembered self. As well, our future persona will be shaped by the attention we pay to the impact of our deaths on those we leave behind and our efforts to fill the gap left by our departure.”
We would be wise not to underestimate the importance of the role we play on this Earth. When people talked to me about their departed family members and friends, they imbued them with the emotional fibre of those still alive. As their stories were being told, the deceased leapt into our conversations, sometimes radiating kindness and consideration, other times trailing chains of hurt and anger. We are leaving a legacy – like it or not. So, we would be wise to pay attention to what that legacy will look like.”
Ask yourself how you want to be remembered and what are the important things you need to do for this to be true?
Green adds: “Your legacy is everything you’re doing. It’s immersed in every single action each day. Just be more conscious that you are living fully and that you are fully engaged and are making an impact. Take it seriously.” And I add, enjoy the process and the opportunity to make a positive difference in your own life and the lives of others, especially those you love. Kindness is always a good legacy. Take nothing for granted.
Note 2:) My webinar today at Wellspring was on this topic and we had a rich exchange. It is still on my mind tonight, so wanted to say just a few words here.
Note 3:) Thank you for all of your kindness and kind words and for showing up here and reading my musings.Warmest wishes, Trudy