When we consider legacy, our thoughts often meander to “The Greats”: The legacy of spectacular athletes, the legacy of effective presidents, the legacy of prestigious universities.
Yet, the most empowering legacies are left by those who are in our daily lives; our parents, children, co-workers, teachers, and friends.
Today I am honoring a close friend who journeyed through the valleys and mountains of the Big C. As I reflect on the past several years of Ann’s skirmishes and all-out armed warfare against this unforgiving enemy, my discombobulated thoughts return to one thing: her legacy.
Walking into her room at hospice this week, I was overwhelmed with the sense of love and bonding between the five remarkable daughters sitting by her side. The alliance they formed while their worlds transitioned appeared to be an unspoken vow to their mom…
”We got this, Mom. You taught us. It’s okay.”
Legacy? You bet. Despite all the typical “sister issues” every family experiences, it is clear Ann left a legacy of love and unwavering commitment to the care and well-being of each other, each sister. It was palpable. It was powerful.
This immense sense of goodness offered an opportunity for me to reflect on the legacy Ann left for me personally. It also gave pause to consider what I hope to leave for my own children.
Before her initial diagnosis, Ann and I enthusiastically volunteered to hand out water at the 13.1 mile water station of the Chicago Marathon. As we awkwardly shoved water cups into the hands of dedicated runners, we entertained ourselves with ongoing comments that reflected the idea that – if THEY can do it, we can TOTALLY do it. Bad-ass runner-talk commenced and plans were instantly made.
Then the diagnosis.
I went on to run 26.2 the next year. In fact, she ran with me – flapping in the wind off my backside with her name on an American Cancer Society ribbon.
Over ten years have gone by since then. Many races have been run, many donations have been made, many tears have been shed. But I promise, no one I have met has run a race quite like Ann.
What were the legacies she left with me and other friends?
- Strength, endurance, and hope. She was a petite, wisp of a woman who fought with superhuman strength. If she can do that, then I can do this.
- Life is short. Go out and have adventures…before you can’t.
- Pick a few close friends and love them fiercely.
- Don’t worry what other people think of you, just be your own awesome cool self. (And trust me, she was cool!)
Take time to reflect on the legacy you hope to leave for your tribe of loved ones.
Consider conversations with our children and what an impact you can make, especially when addressing sexuality health issues.
- Are your conversations respectful? You will leave them with a legacy of respecting others for who they are.
- Are your conversations encouraging? You will leave a legacy of reaching for the stars and fulfilling hopes and dreams. Give it a shot! There is no true success without effort.
- Are your conversations honest? You will leave a legacy in which it is okay to express themselves confidently and the ability to actively listen to others when they are sharing.
- Are your conversations humorous? You a legacy of joy by taking life a little less seriously.
- Are your conversations open? You leave a legacy that opinions can be shared respectfully. It is okay to agree to disagree. But remember, you never know what you will learn from someone else’s views.
- Finally, have conversations with your children ended a bit…angrily? That’s okay – it happens to all of us. Follow up with an “I’m sorry”. This will leave a legacy of humility.
The following parents were asked what kind of legacy they hope to leave for their children.
Here are some thoughtful responses:
“I would want to be someone they could look up to, that they could be proud of and say, “My dad was a hard worker and a good husband.” I want to be a light to them when the world seems dark. I may not always live that way, but I try my best to be an example they can be proud of.”
Live each day to its fullest!
Live, Love, Laugh
Make a difference!
Make time for family and friends!
Accept yourself and love who you are!
Travel the world!”
“I hope my children know that there will never be another person in their life who thinks about them every day, prays for them and loves them unconditionally as it do. I read a quote the other day that I loved. ‘There is never anyone so far beneath you that you can’t learn something from and no one so far above you that you need permission to communicate with them.’”
“As you can tell by the yellowed stained color, this has been on our fridge since my kids were very little. These were “rules to live by”and I think my kids have taken these rules to heart and live them everyday in their adult lives.”
“A legacy of faith.”
“Ralph Waldo Emerson expresses my thoughts. ‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matter compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen.'”
And what do I want my legacy to be?
- One of kindness and compassion towards all people. A kind word and friendly smile can make a difference in someone’s day.
- An understanding that no one is perfect, including ourselves.
- Wonderment of the world and the beautiful people who live in it.
- To live their authentic lives (as long as they invite me along on the journey!).
- Take care of their bodies to live a long and vigorous life.
Finally…a legacy of love. Because, my friend, at the end of our journey, nothing else matters.
Legacy. Let’s make it personal. What do you hope will be your legacy to the loved ones in your world? Please share below.
(Photos: Dollar Photo Club)