What’s Your Legacy?

In the last three weeks I have been to four funerals of friend’s dads. I’m just getting to that age… I didn’t interact much with any of these beautiful men, so I had to get most of my sense of them from the eulogies given by family members and friends.

My friend Vicki’s dad, Cliff, owned a children’s clothing shop when I was growing up—everyone knew him. I laughed at the stories and felt love as I heard them. His grandson called him, “My best friend.” Cliff was a volunteer fireman. The curmudgeon of a fire chief started to cry in between some rather colorful words (that will be part of his legacy) and Vicki had to take over and read what he had prepared to say about her Dad. Cliff was well liked and loved.

My father in law was at this funeral. As I stood by the gravesite arm in arm with the 83 year old man I’ve grown to love as I love my own father, he said, “I hope people remember Cliff. He was a special man. Nobody ever remembers you after you go.”

I stopped breathing. Wow. How could people not remember Cliff? He was funny, quirky, loving, social and very loyal to his friends and family. I realize now that my father in law wasn’t talking about his friend Cliff. He was talking about himself.

It made me connect on my own legacy—for my family, friends and also people I work with. My kids always tease me about how they will say at my funeral, “ … and she could fall asleep in front of the TV every night better than anyone we ever knew…”

Legacy is about consistency. (All right. I admit I’ve fallen asleep somewhat consistently on that couch.) But what else are people going to remember me for? How have I made a positive impact in other’s lives? How have I shown that I love them, or made them laugh, feel better about themselves, given them an opportunity to stretch their abilities so that they feel even more success than they might otherwise? And not just once, but consistently when they knew they needed me most, and when they didn’t know it until I was there.

The truth is every one deserves to be remembered, and Dad, you’ve made sure we won’t forget you. Meanwhile, I am going to work hard on being remembered for something other than sleeping on the couch.

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