“He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present, than the living man” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).
IN AT LEAST SOME SMALL WAY, ALL OF US WANT TO LEAVE A LEGACY. We may not spend much time consciously thinking about it, but somewhere in our hearts there’s a desire to leave some gift or blessing to our survivors. We want, by the time our lives are over, to have made some contribution to someone else’s life. The thought that we might not even leave a trace of evidence that we were here is an uncomfortable thought to most normal people. We’d rather think our lives have meant something worthy of remembrance. We hope something we’ve done will linger in the minds of kindly people.
In a sense, each of us will leave a legacy. We can’t live in the world for any length of time and not change it in some way. So the question is not whether we’ll make a contribution but only what kind of contribution it’ll be. What we want is to leave this world without having to be ashamed of our legacy. We’re looking for joy, not regrets.
As we consider the legacy we’d like to leave, most of us would do well to simplify things. Rather than aspire to a grandiose legacy, we need to think more in terms of mementos a simple man or a simple woman would leave behind: an example of unselfish service . . . or trustworthiness . . . or hard work. Simple things make wonderful legacies, and if you want some suggestions, just turn to the index of this book. Pick out a few items and commit yourself to them passionately. Determine that you’ll include them in the legacy you leave.
Bear one thing in mind, however. Legacies are not built tomorrow; they’re built today. In the end, you’ll not be pleased with your final gift if you put off working on it until a convenient time comes around. Live today — this very day — such that your legacy will be worthy of those to whom you wish to leave it. Nothing less than your best will do.
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another” (John Donne).