Lately, I have been thinking a lot about legacies, and the legacy that I will one day leave behind. Some of this is because I have become so intimate with the concept of death in recent years, and this year in particular it has been such a constant. When we think of those who passed away, we naturally remember something about them—what they were known for, how they made us feel, what they inspired within us, and so much more. See this week’s video here: https://youtu.be/Oj5zmvS54W0
There are people who have passed away in my own life, ages ago, that still influence how I live my life. I often think of my paternal grandparents, and my maternal grandfather. I am fortunate enough to still have my maternal grandmother, alive and in my life. Whether they are here in the physical or on the other side, they have impacted my life in profound ways.
My maternal grandmother is full of wisdom and teaches me endless lessons about life. She reminds me to see the blessings in situations, and to think deeply and intentionally about the life that I am living and want to live. If I start worrying about something, she will always encourage me to look at things in a different light. I did not fully appreciate this when I was younger, but as I am getting older, I see what a gift it is to be able to choose our perspective.
My paternal grandmother was a fiery advocate and big supporter of her community. People came from all over to see her, and I just remember that her presence often felt larger than life. Sometimes when I feel nervous, I think of her courage.
My paternal grandfather was a friend to all and had a great sense of humor. He told great stories, and I remember when I was little sometimes he would cook us lunch because the school was nearby. It was whatever it was, but always made with love.
My maternal grandfather was an entrepreneur, a community builder, and left a legacy of kindness. My mom and aunt tells me the story of how he found someone stealing from his land. Instead of punishment, he asked the man for some details about what was going on. He found out about his struggles and gave him a job working on the land.
Both of my grandfathers were farmers, they loved the land, they loved their community, and they loved Jamaica. While I feel that they were rooted, my grandmothers had and have wings. My grandmothers utilized their vision to create paths of future progress for their descendants.
This notion of legacy also came up because my mom has been sewing an amazing quilt. She has drawn pictures on fabric that mean something for some aspect of her life, or from some major life event for her. She embroiders the pictures with bold and beautiful color threads. Now please understand, my mom is what I call a right and left-brain person.
She is logical, analytical, but also super creative and talented with artistic endeavors. One of her amazing talents is at sewing. I hope that nothing major ever depends on me sewing because I can barely sew a good hemline. LOL!!! Back to the quilt—the quilt is amazing, and one day while we were talking, I think she said, she hoped that one of us—her four children—would want it. I volunteered myself immediately… I will take it! I just feel that it is being made with so much love, and it is a beautiful way of remembering major moments in her life. I think this quilt made me think about some important moments in my own life, and what it is that I want to leave as my own personal legacy. How would I want to be remembered? William James said, “The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”
I also thought about my dad because I know that one of the things that I definitely got from him was my sense of humor, my cooking skills, and he has a kind heart. Both of my parents do. My dad also seems to know everybody in his community. We can’t go anywhere without someone saying hi. He will give people a ride to insert location here at the drop of a hat, help with things, and try to connect people to necessary information. I have been told that I am similar in that way.
I carry the lessons that I have learned from not only my parents and grandparents, but from everyone who has left a mark on me with me every day. This also includes my aunt, who in my eyes exemplifies vision, hard work, and creating a lasting foundation.
She reminds me of something that I read once about the Iroquois Native American tribe of people. Under the principle of the Great Law of Peace, is also the Seventh Generation Principle. It is based on the ancient Haudenosaunee philosophy that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. My aunt thinks about the future a lot, about what will be left for future generations, and what foundations are we creating right now to ensure that they have something to build from? This is what leaving a legacy is about; it is simply asking the question, “What will I be remembered for?” What will you pass on to the next generations? This is not just financial or physical resources, but also maybe your values, or your character.
Joan Moran said, “The idea of leaving a legacy is the need or the desire to be remembered for what you have contributed to the world. In some cases, that contribution can be so special that the universe is unalterably changed. However, for most mere mortals walking this earth, most will leave a more modest legacy that doesn’t necessarily change the world but does leave a lasting footprint that will be remembered by those whose lives you touched. You hope your life matters in some way.” If you are watching this video, I want you to know that your life does matter. It does matter what you do here, the kind of energy you put out, and the way that you treat others and yourself.
Former president Barack Obama said, “I saw myself as a relay runner. I would take the baton and I would run my leg of the race. And then I’d pass the baton to someone else. . . Each generation tries to make progress knowing that what we do is not going to be perfect. . . But, hopefully, we’ve run our leg of the race effectively – and the world’s gotten a little bit better.”
Shannon L. Alder said, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” And of course, Maya Angelou one of my favorites said two things that I love. “If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” She also said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” There is a video clip out in the ethers of Maya Angelou called, “God Put A Rainbow in the Clouds.” She said, “When it looks like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds. Imagine! I’ve had so many rainbows in my clouds. I had a lot of clouds, but I had so many rainbows.” She actually equated rainbows to all of the people who have ever helped her along her life journey. She said that she carried them everywhere with her, and that we should always be willing and ready to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud. “The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God — if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”
Recognizing that as we go through life, you are going to interact with other people, and have an abundance of life experiences, you are constantly building on your personal legacy. You might not always believe it or feel it, but you are having an impact on someone, and on this place and this time. You matter, and so I think it is important to be intentional about what kind of legacy you want to leave here. Whether it is big or small, it matters.
Stephen Covey, the author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” also has an exercise that he calls the “Obituary Exercise.” Essentially, you are picturing your own funeral. It sounds morbid, but just follow where I am going with this. He says, “In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral parlor, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You see faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there. As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral; all of these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.
As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first one is from your family…who have come from all over the country to attend. The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from a community organization where you’ve been involved in service. Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate? What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions? What achievements?” I really want you to sit with these questions, and allow them to help you create the sort of values and legacy that you would like to be remembered for…except that you can live them now, each and every day.”
So here are a few tips this week from Celestial Goodness for creating a lasting legacy.
1) Don’t be afraid to share your story. Leave a paper trail. Yes, leave pictures, journals, words, or something so that those who come after you can have a sense of who you are.
2) Offer yourself in service to the world. Whether that is time or other resources, and whether that is big or small, even the tiniest actions can having a lasting impact. This includes supporting causes and people that mean a lot to you! It also means standing for something, and being a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.
3) Give the gift of your time to your loved ones. Spend some quality time with your loved ones. Don’t get so caught up with life that you miss the magic in the moments that you spend with your loved ones. Sweet conversations, creating memories, and just enjoying the presence of other people.
4) Be honest and authentic in everything that you do.
5) Live your values daily, pass them along, and be an example of that to others.
6) Be generous and kind. Share your blessings.
7) Enjoy your life to the fullest, whatever that means for you.
8) Love, and love some more.
It can be weird for some people to have to think so far ahead, but it is so important! Thinking ahead, thinking about some of the questions that I asked here are important in helping to define who you are, and what you want your own legacy to be so that you can live it now, and that you can live a full and amazing life. I believe in that for you. Let me know if you had any epiphanies! May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be a good one!