With retirement, the subjects of pensions and Wills and beneficiaries raise thoughts of legacy. What is my legacy? What do I want my legacy to be? How do I want to be remembered? Will I be remembered? Will anyone care that I’m gone? Or will I be like that portrait hanging in an antiques store that’s in a nice frame, but no one knows who the person is?
We don’t have children to leave things to. No one to argue over our estate. No sons or daughters stopping by to drop subtle hints about what they’d like should something happen. So far, the nieces and nephews aren’t suspiciously buddying up to us. We never hear from our godchildren. (Do I sound like an old person? “We never hear from so and so.”)
Of course, the estate is only one type of legacy. Much—if not most—of our legacy is intangible, such as the effects we’ve had on people during our lives. Family, friends, co-workers, even strangers. We’ve all touched uncountable lives. Some in big ways, some in small ways, some in ways we don’t even realize. We’ll never know how different things would have been if we had not helped this person or guided that person, spoken up or held our tongues, stood up or stood down. A simple kind word or gesture, forgiveness, love, patience with people we’ve encountered during our lives could have had a major effect—as could an angry word, forgiveness withheld, hatred, impatience, judgment. Even seemingly insignificant moments can have a ripple effect.
When I look back, it seems I more easily recall some of the dumb things I’ve said and done over the years, rather than my better moments. Some still make me cringe when I think of them. Maybe it’s that in a life filled mostly with good moments, the bad ones stick out because they were comparatively few and far between. Yeah, I like the sound of that. I am hopeful I’ve done many more good things than bad. I hope my presence in this world has had more of a positive effect than a negative one.
As I reread this, it sounds like I’m ready to check out. Not yet! I intend many more years to ponder life, look back and cringe, look forward with hope, and generally make a nuisance of myself. I’m still working on my legacy—whatever that may be.
In the meantime, though, I will be keeping an eye on the nieces and nephews.