This year has been an unexpected whirlwind of death and tragedy for many, including myself. Even in this last month, I am working through the grief of losing loved ones. It’s left me with many existential questions along with fear of the unexpected as I’m sure many others are experiencing.
But despite my questions of “why”and what the future holds, and in being starkly reminded of life’s fragility, I see an irrefutable lesson: tomorrow isn’t promised and the life we live today creates our legacy for tomorrow.
Legacy is something I think about often [listen to me talk about it during an interview from earlier this year here]. Perhaps it’s my Type A personality that always keeps a voice in the back of my mind whispering “Girl, what are you doing?” and “Why?”. I really try to live with intention. Sometimes I wonder if it prevents me from being too spontaneous or free, but I can’t shake the feeling that time is not on my side and that any time spent can’t be recovered.
This year was like a crash course on time and legacy. I don’t want to go through the names of all the people we lost this year. Quite frankly, it would be too painful for me, but I will go through the types of legacies I’ve learned to appreciate and cultivate this year.
I don’t believe that we are what we do. Many people don’t have the privilege or resources to completely pursue their ultimate career choice so I don’t believe someone’s career is equivalent to their value or character.
However, there is something to be said about the way we do what we do. How we work. How we show up. How we perform. If we do it grudgingly or not. If we do it with pride. If we do it well.
Although it may not result in praise or a raise all of the time, people notice. I would argue that the way we work is more important than the actual work itself. I think of Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman. Two men who were dedicated to their craft, inspired others to cultivate their God-given gifts, and strategically used their talents to the best of their abilities.
Maya Angelou is one of my biggest influences as a writer, thought leader, and just overall human being. This quote sums up the thought behind this type of legacy.
Emotional legacy is real. While we can’t control people’s perception of our words and actions, we have the ability to navigate the world in a way that doesn’t intentionally cause harm to others. We have the power to choose hate or love. We can choose to listen and apologize when needed. We can treat others as we wish to be treated.
It’s in the way that we treat and speak to people who can do nothing for us. The marginalized, the overlooked, the outcasted. Kindness goes a long way and it’s something we all need and remember.
This type of legacy can intertwine with the first one as well. I think of Alex Trebek, Natalie Desselle-Reid, Tommy Lister, and more. These people made career choices and executed them in a way that left smiles on our faces, created moments in time, and brought us together.
This can literally mean having family and children that bear your name. But it can also look like other things that people can see and touch. It can look like philanthropy and the transfer of wealth. Giving in small and large ways. Feeding and clothing the homeless. Donating unused clothes and goods.
Physical legacy is about using a physical means to make an impact. Everyone won’t have a street or building named after them, but most of us have something within our possession that can impact another person’s life and in sharing it, we create a legacy that people can see with their eyes and feel with their hands.
Although spirituality can look a lot of different ways, fundamentally, it’s about connecting with something outside of ourselves. Recognizing and resonating with divinity. And while I believe spirituality is a deeply personal journey, there are people who help us to navigate the mystery of it all.
I think of Ravi Zacharias, the apologist who used his time on earth to help people navigate the hard questions. I think of Rance Allen, the charismatic singer, whose words helped shine a light of hope in people’s darkest moments.
It’s not everyone’s calling to do this, but I believe at the very least, we can all leave a spiritual legacy by recognizing and honoring the divinity in humanity and helping to sustain the hope we all need.
None of us know how much time we have on earth, but one thing we can control is what we do with that time.
Death sucks. And sometimes it hits like a punch in the gut, but if there is any redeemable value to this sorrowful part of life, it’s that it has the power to sober the mind and heart, redirect our focus, and remind of us what really matters.
Until next time,
Ms. Melody Monroe