Looking at some old pictures recently I was struck by the fact that there are generations behind me that have influenced my life who I don’t know.
Many of them I’ve never met. I’m acquainted by stories and studying their faded faces in yellow-edged photo albums. There are faint images of others that I remember in my mind as I scroll back through memories of years past.
My sweet grandparents who were very little and cute that I only met a couple times. I loved their house, and staring through the glass into the room we weren’t allowed to play in. I remember finding a box of romance books under a bed and sneaking a couple away to read. I have memories of visiting the church they served for years and walking around the streets where my dad grew up.
I think of my great- grandfather who had a drawer full of candy in his room. We didn’t really know him well and were a little nervous, but we’d tentatively go up the creaky stairs with our mom when we visited our other Grandma’s house and get a treat and a sweet hug.
So many others, going even farther back. Family. Friends of family. Known only by stories and recollections.
All part of who I am. Shaping so many parts of me. Faith. Family Values. Work Ethic. Relationships. Priorities. Parts of me that I don’t even know, trickling from generation to generation.
It’s not just DNA that we pass along.
Recently came the realization that as much as I love and adore my own family – a few generations away there will be those that are part of my legacy that won’t know me.
Referring to me from a distance.
Remember great-grandmother Shelly?
Who was that crazy great-aunt you had?
What was your great- great-grandma’s name again?
I’ll be honest. I can’t dwell on that too much. It breaks my heart. I think of how much I love my kids, but what we have right now won’t be forever. I think of my extended family and friends. I think of those I mentor and lead. I can’t be part of the next 5 generations that come after me. They will go on and live their lives. And their kids will live their lives, and on it goes. I’ll have some influence for sure, I totally plan on being the coolest woman ever in the seniors facility and living all my minutes to the fullest.
But I won’t live forever.
Legacy will go on.
Who I am right now becomes that legacy.
How I live each day is that legacy.
I always thought legacy was what you left behind, and it is. But legacy is also something that you can intentionally create and shape in the present. It doesn’t have to be a passive part of your life. You can decide what you want your legacy to be. Each choice you make, the words you say, the way you treat people are what lives on. You can do a lifetime of good, and one bad decision or life choice can alter your legacy forever. It affects your family, it affects your friends, those you mentor, those you influence. Legacy matters and is far reaching.
That’s a startling thought.
So what legacy are we living?
Legacy lived becomes legacy left.
I don’t just want to be remembered for my absentmindedness, or the terrific ability I have to lose keys. I also accidentally put Mr. Clean in the fridge today, and I really don’t want to be remembered for that either. I know that I make bad choices, I have ugly moments, I react in anger, and I don’t always treat people the way I should.
I know my legacy will not be one of perfection.
But I want it to be one of goodness.
How to face disappointment with hope.
Being brave in times of fear.
Persevering when it’s hard.
Living out authentic faith.
Pursuing crazy dreams.
All this matters because legacy lived becomes legacy left. Pass on the best parts of you, and see those parts grow and be stronger in generations to come. How we live matters because who we are to those behind us, ultimately shapes who they become too. Family and stretching beyond. Legacy is far-reaching.
So live the legacy you want to leave.
Live out your best replicable self.
Sometimes I think of the future, and I imagine this sweet family looking at some old pictures, likely on technology that is ancient to them. There I am on an old digital photo. Likely taking a weird selfie with a donut wall. And some sweet child that I’ve never met but that is part of my family in generations to come is looking at my face.
“Tell me about her,” they will ask.
“What will they say about me?” is what I think.
So I live with legacy purpose now, so that the good parts of me live on in them.
Legacy lived becomes legacy left.