We talk a lot here at BoomerCafé about the “wisdom of our years.” That’s what this piece by Robb Lucy of Vancouver, Canada is all about. Robb tells us that his body is 65, but “my mind is still hanging around 21.” He has written a book called “How Will You Be Remembered?,” which is a question each of us can ask ourselves. And he helps answer it.
I remember very clearly the moment my wife and I found out we weren’t able to have children. We cried on the way home, then opened a bottle of wine. Our life’s purpose seemed to have been pulled from under us. We needed a little time to … adjust.
A few months later I began talking to my seatmate on a four-hour plane ride. He asked me the purpose of my trip. I told him I was going to receive a $10,000 check for the work I’d done developing an international charity. The charity would get that check. I then showed him the book I’d just done with my father about his dramatic war experiences in WWII. “That’s quite a legacy” said the fellow beside me.
“Legacy”I wondered? I won’t have a legacy. I don’t have kids. Don’t you need kids to have a “legacy.” I mean, isn’t legacy just packaging up the money and other assets and sending it down the line to your kids when you’re gone?
I began to wonder about my legacy. And realized, it’s not just about what you leave your kids. It’s about how you will be remembered. Which made me ask, what did I create in my life that connected me to people, enhanced lives, and made all of us happier? Can I create and enjoy my legacies now… knowing I can leave them behind to positively affect other lives when I’m gone?
I began to think we should lift this heavy patina of death and money off of “Legacy,” and make it joyful, fun, and ‘now.’ I want my descendants hundreds of years from now to smile and say, “That’s what great, great, great, great Uncle Robb left for us. His blood runs in us!”
So here are some ideas.
TELL your story.
I have a picture of my great grandparents just arriving in North America from Ireland, around 1870. But I know nothing about them. I would love to read about their lives-– their hardships, their joys. But we have nothing to look at. By contrast, you and I have no excuses. We have digital technology in print and video that can be seen by our descendants hundreds of years from now. Said American writer, Ellen Goodman: “What the next generation will value is not what we owned, but the evidence of who we were, and the tales of how we loved.”
GATHER their stories.
Have you ever been to a funeral and thought, “We should have gotten her/his story. But now it’s gone.” I gathered my father’s story because I didn’t want it to disappear. It continues to be handed down and read by Dad’s great, great, great grandsons and granddaughters. Is there someone whose story you don’t want to disappear? Don’t let them talk you out of it. “There was never yet an uninteresting life” said Mark Twain. “Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy and a tragedy.”
CREATE new stories.
Each of us in unique because of our signature strengths: our values, skills, and talents. Combine those with our imaginations, and thousands of legacies are possible, from a corner garden to an international charity. Seeing what others have done shows how legacy-building can be fun and fulfilling… creating a more meaningful life full of purpose. It’s not about money, you don’t have to be rich, and you definitely don’t want to wait to hear what your legacies are from your eulogist! “How wonderful that no one need to wait a single moment to improve the world” said Anne Frank.
So, I say: don’t just leave a legacy. Learn to LIVE your Legacies!”