legacy and heritage

Updated: May 12

"I will remember my grandfather’s laugh for as long as I am alive. I can hear it ringing in my head. I will remember his hands and his hugs and his crooked smile. I will remember his kindness and his pioneering spirit."

I think a lot about legacy and heritage, and ponder the difference. I have had this conversation with several people lately. A friend of mine told me his father had a living wake after becoming terminally ill. He said it was wonderful to see his dad enjoying moments with people he cared about. We agreed it is the person who passes that misses out when many of the nice things are said after they are gone.

I feel it is important to let people know what and how much they mean to you in real time, because you really never know the master plan or the timeline. My poor mum has always said I am morbid, because I talk about my death as if it is something imminent, and have for as long as I can remember. I want her to know that I have lived mindfully and in pursuit of what I believe will be my legacy. I want to build community, and write things that are meaningful.

I ponder what our current society will pass on as our heritage. I wonder what we will be remembered for. We get caught up in how fast things move, how connected we are, often virtually, and the pressure to keep up, know more, stay visible. I wonder if those things will matter, or if we will be known for squandering all our chances to have real connections. I try hard not to place value on the number of likes I get online. I try to make sure I am still likeable in real life.

My grandfather was an amazing community builder. When he passed away no small gathering would do. I remember being overwhelmed by the number of people present at his memorial. I have never cried so hard as when the trumpeter played taps to the otherwise silent reverent room. Near the time of his death, he asked me if I knew he loved me. It was asked in a way that implied he wondered if he had told me, or shown me in a way I was guaranteed to truly feel it. I told him I knew and he seemed content, as if another thing was crossed off his life list.

I will remember my grandfather’s laugh for as long as I am alive. I can hear it ringing in my head. I will remember his hands and his hugs and his crooked smile. I will remember his kindness and his pioneering spirit. I will forever admire his ability to command a space with gentle dignity. I will remember him riding his tractor in the local parade, waving at me as he went by, as if he was a king in a royal procession. None of it is lost because it is in me. I cherish that, but with each passing day I know we lose pieces of history because someone's legacy is forgotten.

I have talked a lot about mindfulness recently and as much as anything else, I feel it is important to be mindful of the moments. We need to be present in them for them to be properly stored, so we can carry them forward. I think there is something to be said for just how content my grandfather was riding an antique John Deere tractor slowly up a small-town street. I will try harder to be mindful of mine.

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