Legacy… The power that comes from that small, simple word is indescribable. Legacy. What actually is a legacy? How do we determine our own legacy?
The dictionary would define Legacy as “a gift or a bequest, that is handed down, endowed or conveyed from on person to another”.
Have you ever thought of legacy as a gift? I sure haven’t. I personally thought of legacy as the way people would see us when we are gone. Basically when we are dead! But our legacy isn’t just built in the day that we are gone. It is a life long process built by how we live.
What gifts do I go about giving every day? I’m not talking about the gifts that are wrapped in a pretty pink bow or that money can buy. I am talking about the small acts of kindness, the connections we make with others, the impressions we leave with people, the service that we perform, or even the advice we give.
I have never truly thought of any of those things as gifts. However, I don’t know what my words or actions actually mean to those around me. To them, it may in fact be a gift. That’s not for me to decide.
There is a quote that I really like (P.S. I really LOVE quotes so you’re going to see them a lot in my posts!). It says that “legacy is planting seeds in a garden that you never get to see”. Sometimes we don’t get to see the fruits of our labors or the effects that we have on others. And that’s okay.
A few months ago, my grandpa had a brain aneurism and he was left unresponsive. That day was one of the most terrifying and stressful in my life. Many thoughts passed through my head. Was he going to die? How was my grandma doing? What would happen to her if he didn’t make it? Would my grandma have to choose to end his life? How was my mom? This was her dad. I would be a horrible wreck if it was my dad. What would I say to him, if I had to say goodbye to him? What was the most important thing that my grandpa taught me? So many questions, none of them answered.
That very day, all of my family members, from all over Arizona, rushed to the hospital to see my grandpa and to say goodbye. As I walked into the room, I immediately started to cry. Seeing him hooked up to machines that were keeping him alive was not a friendly sight to see. Looking around at my family members that had gathered, they were all just as devastated as I was. Looking at my grandma, who was probably going to have to say goodbye to the love of her life, broke my heart.
As I walked up to him to say goodbye, all these flashbacks came into my mind of moments that I have had with this marvelous man. Each one had touched me in a way that I can’t explain. Each memory was a precious gift that my grandpa had endowed to me. I grabbed his still hand and told him how much I loved him and how he had changed my life for the better, by his example and the precious gifts he didn’t know he gave me.
Tears came to his eyes, even though he was unresponsive. Seeing him cry, made me know that he was there. He was listening. He knew how much I loved him. He knew how much we all loved him.
The following morning my grandpa peacefully passed away in his sleep. I went to be with my grandma that day as we both held each other and cried.
A week later, we held a funeral service for my wonderful grandpa. As I sat there in the service, listening to his children talk about the life he had, that one simple word came to my mind. Legacy. What had my grandpa left behind? What impact had those small gifts throughout his life had on me? On all of us?
My grandpa’s legacy was one of joy and happiness. He left a legacy of service and unique love. He left a legacy of never giving up and always doing his very best. One of his best sayings was “Suck it up and do the right thing”. That is the gift that my grandpa left his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
As I watched my grandpa’s casket lower into the ground, I took a moment to ponder on my own life. If I were to die that day, what would people say about me at my funeral? What would my legacy be?
A few months after that, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints celebrated the 95th birthday of our beloved prophet, President Russel M. Nelson. The church broadcasted this birthday event so anyone around the world could participate. His children were able to speak about the kind of man their dad was. Members of this church got to talk about what kind of leader he was. Even his companions at the hospital he once worked at got to talk about the kind of surgeon he was.
I watched this celebration with great joy, marveling in the life that this powerful man led. Although he has not passed on from this life, he has 95 years of a legacy behind him that he continues to develop today. When that word came to my mind again, I thought about the life that this man was living.
President Nelson’s legacy to me is one of service, love and hope. One of a sincere love for the Lord his God. One of always taking time to bless the lives of those around him, especially his family. Everyone that talked about him, shared their nuggets of gold that he was able to give them throughout his life.
Again, the questions started flowing to my mind. If I were celebrating my 95th birthday today, what legacy would I have already developed? What would my family, friends, co-workers say about me? What would my legacy be?
Since then, I’ve continued to ponder these questions in my mind. I have been thinking about the little gifts I have already left behind in my 25 years of life. I’ve thought to myself “Are these the gifts that I want to be remembered by? If not, how am I going to change that?”
I have a choice. Today and everyday. My legacy isn’t something that just comes by accident or chance. It isn’t something that I don’t have to work on. It isn’t something that will just slide right in. It is, however, how I choose to live my life each day. It is how I choose to respond to people. It is the random acts of kindness I perform. It is the small little gifts I choose to give to others. It is something that I will spend the rest of my life building. My legacy is what I decided to make of it. It truly is up to me.
“Legacy is not leaving something for people. Legacy is leaving something IN people”.
I challenge you, right now, to ponder what legacy you have already developed? Then, take time to ponder what legacy you want people to remember about you? If they don’t coincide, then change. Your legacy is in the power of your hands. You get to decide, the same as I do, the little nuggets of gold or gifts that you will leave with people every day.