How will I be remembered? I have no illusions or desire for the world at large to note my life or mourn my death. My name will not be included in history books. Fame has never been of interest to me. However, I do want to have an impact on people and the world. The fact that I lived should matter.
During my senior year in high school I took a class called “Philosophy and Literature”. We studied to works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, especially “Self-Reliance” and the “the Divinity School Address”. We also read a poem attributed to Emerson called Success.
It goes as follows:
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived- this is to have succeeded.”
The words of Emerson have stuck with me and guided me through more difficulties than all the facts I stuffed into my brain to pass exams. The last line of this poem helped me keep a healthy perspective during difficult times. To know that one life was better because I lived- that was my mantra. I have never had a high powered job where I have an impact on multitudes for better or for worse. I live my life on a much smaller scale.
My obituary will not be published in newspapers around the world, across the country or even throughout the state. Social media will not go viral with the sad news. The news stations will not even mention my passing in their broadcasts. If they do, it means I died a violent or unnatural death. That is not the legacy I want. I want to be truly mourned by those whose lives I touched. My family. My neighbors. My friends. Those I have helped even in small ways.
My true legacy consists of my three sons. Rising them has not been easy. It never is. Our lives have not been blessed with abundance or perfect health. Like so many, we have faced multiple job losses, relocations, surgeries, and autism. My oldest two boys are now in college. They have grown into caring, independent, and productive members of society. I know if I die today, they will survive and thrive. My youngest is still in middle school and needs my guidance. Every day I notice that he is growing more independent and self-reliant.
Today I am starting what will, by the Grace of God, become a new part of my legacy. Today I am recording my first video sharing the wisdom that helped us through tough times and helped my son overcome his diagnosis of autism. No one may watch this video or read the words I write but I will share my knowledge in the hopes that some day someone who needs the information will find it and someone will benefit.
If information dies with me, no one benefits.