“The great use of life is to use it for something that will outlast it.”
The first place I visited this New Year was the cemetery. As I lay down flowers for my Dad, and glanced at headstones of the many laid to rest, I felt chills. I thought about those who, like him, haven’t joined us in 2018.
We too often assume that tomorrow is promised. But as I took in my surroundings whilst standing there, it became uncomfortably real that my days are numbered. As I read the words “He was a dear friend” and “She was a loved mother” carved in stone, I wondered what could be said about me too when I’m no longer here. This reminded me to not only appreciate life more, but also urged me to think about legacy.
We’re never too old or young to think about our legacy. Contrary to how it’s usually defined, I believe it’s much more than the accumulation of goods we pass down. In reality – these things have little eternal value. To me, it’s about what you’re remembered for, the history you leave behind, and the values you pass onto the next generation.
Reflecting on my New Year resolutions, this thought made me think more broadly than my own life. There’s nothing wrong with goals that pertain to our own well-being and happiness, but it’s important to have altruistic ambitions that aren’t only about us. It’s important to judge our lives by the seeds we plant, rather than just the harvest we reap. We should aim to anchor our motives and decisions in leaving a legacy that will enhance other’s lives. “Do nothing out of selfishness or conceit, but with humility consider others as more important than yourselves, looking out not only for your own interests but also for the interests of others” Phil. 2: 3-4.
Reflect on the causes you are most passionate about, the lives you could change and how you can leave the world better than you found it. Consider the personal goals that you can make to make a difference and create a generational legacy. I’m passionate about empowering discouraged people and helping broken families, for instance. Therefore, I’d love to establish and help businesses, charities and ministries which fulfil that purpose, and continue to do so when I’m no longer here.
Our legacy doesn’t necessarily have to be a world-wide movement. It’s even as simple as your personal relationships, your children, your impact at work, your daily interactions etc. It isn’t about what you leave to people. It’s about what you leave in people. We should enjoy life, live in the moment and take each day as it comes… but we mustn’t take for granted how much time we’ll have here. When my Dad suddenly passed away, writing what to say at his funeral was therapeutic, but overwhelming. To condense somebody’s life down to words is a heavy task. If somebody was to write your eulogy, what would you want it to say?… When I asked myself this, I hypothetically wrote one for myself, imagining how I’d want the impact of my life to be described one day. This wasn’t to be pessimistic – it was a compelling process that put into blind perspective what actually matters. Perhaps you could try it too…
Or at least, as you make your New Year declarations and future goals, keep in mind the bigger picture – What do you want to be remembered for? What values do you want to pass onto the next generation? What history do you want to leave behind? What do you want to leave in people?
What do you want your legacy to be?
It can be hard to acknowledge the fact that our lives on earth won’t last forever. However, our impact can.
– Written in memory of Henry Knight-Willis, RIP Dad ♥