“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
There will, inevitably, come a day when your story ends. Full stop.
As we rush from one red traffic light to the next, one client meeting and one boardroom to the next, or stressing about that email we still need to respond to while trying to find a parking spot to do the daily supermarket rounds, the thought that we will one day die is definitely not one of the things that fills our already jam-packed brains on a daily basis. Knowledge of our own mortality is not one of the things that suddenly infiltrates our thoughts while choosing between pork and lamb chops.
“Legacy. Something left or handed down by a predecessor.”
I.e. consequence, effect, outcome, spin-off, repercussion, aftermath, footprint, result.
The word Aftermath in defining ‘legacy’ struck me the most – an aftermath refers to a certain direct outcome or result of something else – in a sense it speaks indirectly to the result of your life, how you’ve lived it, the choices you’ve made, the love you’ve handed out, the interest you showed in others, the kind words you spoke (or not). It’s the indirect result, or, aftermath for that matter of how you’ve chosen to live your life on this earth.
For a while now I’ve continuously felt the word “legacy” press on my heart (and I know that God wanted me to jot my thoughts down on paper). I’ve been pondering on the notion and concept of a legacy, a sort of ‘post-mortem’ story that lingers on a lot longer than what we’ve achieved financially or academically or on the sports field while we were still alive. “A Legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you long after you are gone.” The idea of legacy may remind us of death, but it’s not about death. Being reminded of death is in essence a good thing, because death informs life. It gives you a perspective on what’s truly important. It helps us decide the kind of life we choose to live and the kind of world we want to live in, and want to leave behind.
I suppose the inspiration for pondering about Legacy, is the fact that I’ve recently lost a grandma, a granddad, and an uncle in a matter of 12 months. For any family that is as closely knit as ours, this was a hard blow, and having to say goodbye to 3 people we shared our lives with and loved dearly in such a short amount of time was not the easiest. They were all “legendary” in the true sense of the word, and I realise only now how extremely lucky and blessed I was to call these three truly inspiring people my family… As I sat at each of their funerals I came more and more to the obvious, but also rather enlightening realization that their stories have now ended, this is it – they can’t say anything more, they can’t correct any wrong, they can’t do anything else now – it is done. They have placed the symbolic full stop at the end of their last chapter. And what they have written in their books are all that we are left with. Thinking about who and what they were – what they stood for, what they believed in, what they taught us, their character and qualities, and most importantly, how they made us feel – that is what they have handed down to us. Their legacies are ALL we have now.
I realized, once more, that nothing that they gathered on this earth did they take with them. We packed up their houses, sold their cars, handled their finances, stored their photo albums and gave away their pretty clothes to charities. Their only prized possession that each of them could leave us with was their little legacy. My grandma lived a life of unconditional love for others, selflessness and generosity, Faith that could move mountains, positivity and gratefulness for every little thing life had to offer poured out of her like life-giving water. My granddad’s legacy is one of unshakable values, integrity, honesty, inner strength and reliability, respect for everyone around him and a sense of humour that could light up any serious situation in a matter of seconds. My uncle showed us how to truly live life to the fullest, fearless in the pursuit of what is to be alive, to reach for every adventure and every dream, to truly see, accept and love people as they were without judging any soul for one second. But all of them had one thing in common: It was never about them, but about making everyone around them feel loved, appreciated and special. They were Givers, and they strived to love unconditionally like Jesus did.
They, through their deaths and thus legacies, inspired me to try being a better version of myself. I realized that I, too, simply long to leave such a godly footprint of love and kindness and selflessness to those who knew me or were close to me. I thought about what legacy I will be leaving behind to the people that show up at my funeral, or even the ones that don’t. Perhaps my legacy would include the smallest, most insignificant interactions with people on a daily basis – the way I spoke to the lady working behind the till, or the way I treated our elderly neighbours on days I got home from a long day at work, tired and irritated. Since their deaths I’ve been thinking about what would the essence of my legacy be? When people walked away from me, what feelings did I leave them with? Could they see Christ in me, in every asset of my life?
We all want and long to be remembered, honoured, our life to be celebrated in some way. We want to know that we mattered, that we’ve touched a few lives at least, perhaps even changed them, that we’ve made our Father proud. We don’t necessarily aspire to be a Nelson Mandela or a Martin Luther King when we die – Most of us will not be an Albert Einstein, or a Thomas Edison with our name and accomplishments remembered forever in the history books. But by asking ourselves how we want to be remembered, we actually plant the seeds for living our lives. If we’re only consumed with pursuing our own selfish interests, what are we? And more importantly, what legacy will we leave?
By actually considering our legacies, God provides us with a compass or a blueprint to help us live our lives now with purpose, integrity, thoughtfulness and selflessness. Leaving a godly legacy to the next generation shouldn’t be an afterthought while choosing between pork and lamb chops – it should in fact determine and guide our daily actions.
It’s never too soon to start living our legacies. Let’s think about it perhaps a little bit more often, because we are all writing it as we speak. And we can choose to leave a legacy that inspires those we leave behind. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Choose well. Your choices are brief, and yet endless.”