The beginning of a life and the end of a life always move me.
At what point on this timeline do we know who it is that we are? Like, really know … who we really are? When do we know that we are living our true life? Do we know how we want to be remembered?
I am wondering about these questions because I recently went to a memorial service celebrating a woman’s life of 88 years. And for some time now, I have been walking around with the thoughts and feelings that no two experiences like this are ever the same … and neither is the way my heart aches during and afterwards. This particular day affected me like no other.
I think it is common during a funeral or memorial service for people to experience such questioning as: what kind of legacy will I leave? What will people say about me when I’m gone? How will people remember me?
It was such an honor to listen to the legacy that this woman has left behind. The church was not packed. There was no line of people who couldn’t find seats. But the way this woman affected the lives of those who knew her, and those who know those who knew her, was remarkable, unquestionable and nothing short of inspiring.
All of the people who spoke described her in the same ways. There was a lot of repetition, but instead of being redundant, it was reaffirming. It was testimonial. It was a tribute to her authenticity.
Of the many things that moved me, the most profound was the way she was remembered and celebrated as a creator of a family. The prevailing gratitude that resonated from everyone there centered around the family life that she created, and the love within that family. Her own adult children recounting how she loved and participated in their lives as a mother … and later as a grandmother. The neighborhood children, now grown, reliving afternoons, weekends, or holidays at her home … how her individual passions for art, dance, and her heritage, were known to them and how with these she wove a magical experience that enhanced all of their lives. Her grandchildren carrying forth wisdom and talent that she clearly either could not or chose not to separate from her role as the one who gave birth to this line of loving and adoring people. Her friends savoring and honoring their unique soul sister connections. They didn’t just see her as a mom, a grandma, a neighbor. They saw and experienced who she was, as a woman, every day of her life. She lived as her true self, always, never giving up who she was in the interest of being anything else. This wasn’t selfish. This was a true gift. The gift of her self. The gift that clearly enriched every single life she touched.
I thought, how many of us do that? Do we know how we want to be remembered? How many of us are living our legacy? Not just a singular role, as a son or daughter, brother or sister, mother or father, husband or wife … not just what our career tells the world we are … and not just the status quo …
I thought of sharing the picture from the announcement of this beautiful woman’s service. But then I thought, this lesson could come from anyone you might know as well. What I did next was think about each of us evaluating and creating our own legacy. I started out with some things I already know about me. I asked some people close to me, beginning with my own children, and added their thoughts. I put all this together in the photo below. I am very interested in how this will shift, change, and grow as I create the rest of my life. I am interested in what each of you would list for you, what kind of photograph of yourself you might choose (or maybe not a photo of yourself, but of something that represents your heart) and I wondered if you would also include things in your list that you do not yet know about yourself, or things you have not yet accomplished but hope or wish to be remembered for.
This service and this project inspired me to my core.
How many of us are living the legacy we want to leave behind?