Legacies: Burdens or Bequests

On Facebook today, my daughter writes:

Having difficulty — dad died in 2008. I have a basement of things — mostly writing…must be THOUSANDS of poems, started collections, forgotten beginnings, things left undone. Bits and pieces of him, his heart, his spirit, that no one in the world will see. Here they sit. For what? He would tell me to let them go, they are just things, gone as he is. But it seems a betrayal. He’d laugh at that, I know. But still. All his work, his passion. For what? To be tossed in recycling. Doesn’t seem right.

The other day, my blogger friend Tamara posted this:

Yesterday I pitched my idea for a new book. I had been excited about it for days – felt alive and alert and looking forward to the writing of it. But, oh well – someone had just recently done a book very similar to what I was proposing. These things happen, and of course I can still write it – perhaps for a different publisher. Because, write it I will – write it I must. It feels like a legacy sort of thing and something I want to do for teachers of young children out there. And as I write this piece now, I realize that at some level I struggle with the feeling that I am entitled to leave a legacy. I mean, who am I after all? Just some teacher educator somewhere. So, where do I get off thinking my legacy is worth anything.

Over at “Time Goes By,” Ronni Bennett links to “Legacy Matters,” and offers this quote from there:

“…what you leave behind is the evidence of the life you lived,” says Jill. “I want people to live fuller, richer lives and the way to do that is to realize that we all hang by a slender thread that could be cut at any time. I believe that we all should have a legacy plan so that we leave behind the gift of good records, the gift of good directions, the gift of family stories and the gift of ourselves. This is different from your traditional estate plan or your financial plan, but, in the end, may prove far more valuable to your family.”

If you are a widely published and/or read writer, your legacy of words is an obvious one. That’s the advantage of blogging — your words and thoughts and values are out there to share with the world even after you are no longer a part of it. As long as someone pays for your domain name, of course.

Apart from this blog, which will disappear when my consciousness does, what is my legacy? My bins of yarn and fabric? My shelves of books? My box of poems, finished and unfinished? Certainly it’s not my money, because I have none left to leave.

In truth, I believe what I left as a comment to my daughter’s Facebook thoughts about her father’s legacy:

You’ve got me thinking about legacies, and what they really are. Your dad’s most important legacies are the differences he made in the lives he touched as a teacher, mentor, father, friend. Those things live on and are paid forward. The stuff that turns to dust and ashes is really not that important in the long run. Pick a few things at random to save when Lex becomes interested. Let the rest go. The best of his legacy is inside you.

And perhaps the best legacies that we can leave our families are our examples of living with passion and purpose — the behaviors and values we model each day as we “Enjoy Every Sandwich.”