A friend of mine and another person in my community of faith passed away recently from pancreatic and liver cancer. They were gone witinh two weeks of their diagnosis. I am speaking at my friends funeral next week. This caused me to think about him and what is “leaving a legacy” about?
There are four criteria that I’ve come up with, which I thought I’d share with you.
1. What have we done?
What we do each day is our lives. This is a simple truth I try to remind myself of. Often we think “our lives” are something to look forward to, if we can just find the right person, the right job, perhaps move, a little more money, many things come to mind. But, what we do each day is our lives.
When I think of my friend, he helped helped start an international relief organization, helped start a company that built affordable housing, helped start two magazines, founded a company that helps students prepare for the MCAT’s and helped start a private High School. This is astonishing.
He had new ideas and we were going to get together soon to talk and share.
2. Who Have We Become?
Not everyone has a great legacy of external accomplishments. The internal development is hard to notice and is often most fully displayed by simple and ordinary people. The rich, powerful and famous may emulate this, but rarely do they really become and embody lives of integrity. And integrity I define is, “the ability to tell yourself the truth, to listen to that voice and to do your best to live in accordance with that truth.”
In the case of my friend, he was a great and trusted friend, a willing mentor and loving husband and father and a Son of God.
3. Those We Have Loved
The measure of the quality of our lives, is not just external accomplishments, nor internal growth, but by those we have loved. It means those who we’re close to or easy to love, but also those who were not so easy. It means being faithful to who we have become and maintaining that compass of direction toward love in the difficult times.
My friend Kem, loved many and loved well and maintained a levity and sense of humor that helped me and I know others through difficult or confusing times.
4. What Others Do Because of Us
Another part, and perhaps the final measure of a legacy is what others do because of us. It is not up to them, but is up to us to determine their legacy. We always remember people who have accomplished great things, have become people in integrity and internal growth and those who have loved deeply and broadly. But we don’t often think that the legacy of anyone is really up to us.
Let’s all think of those we know who have accomplished great things in their lives, not just Michael Jordan or Mozart. No one starts with the same gifts and talents. The measure can be a Michael Jordan type of of accomplishment, but it could be a special needs child who learns to talk and walk. Which is greater? I’ll leave that to you to answer.
Let’s be honest and dedicated to our own internal growth. No one can do this for us and it is what brings us real satisfaction and provides us with the psychic and emotional tools to live live well.
Let’s love deeply and broadly. This is something we all can and should do. It lifts up others, provides meaning to our lives and connects us to those whom we share our lives with.
Let’s take the lessons we have learned from others and embody their values as part of our lives. By doing so, they live with and through us. It is how civilization learns, grows and improves as well.