At 73, my mother died last month after a battle with Alzheimer’s. However, when my mother was alive, she was really alive.
She was a giver and always moving and she was a great mother. She invested in the lives of her children, took us to events, encouraged us to pursue our dreams and congratulated us when we did well. She led others with enthusiasm, she had a smile a mile wide, beautiful blue eyes and she had an unusually positive outlook on life. She plowed new ground in terms of race relations, she participated in the life of her community and because of her involvement in business, she was a role model for many females in the area. She led a very active, full life.
At the funeral for my mother, my siblings and I stood in a reception line for nearly one hour straight and shook the hands of those that had come to honor her life. We must have spoken to 200 people in that line. Tears welled up in my eyes as I peered out the doorway and saw the line stretching out the portico and all the way around the corner.
In that reception line I heard some wonderfully comforting words of honor for my Mom. Looking back two comments stand out from all the others.
- One was from a younger woman I did not know, who said, “I know you don’t know me, but I knew your Mom…and she had a great impact on my life.”
- Another comment was sent via a note from one of her classmates at LSU that said that her friendship with my mother “was one of the great experiences of her life.”
What more can you say?
So, after a truly honoring funeral, words of encouragement and devotion heaped on my mother’s memory, I wonder….what will survive me? What will my funeral be like. What will be my legacy; what will be your legacy?
- What impact will you have on those you leave behind?
- Will your legacy last more than the shortness of your life?
- Will others say that knowing you was one of the “greatest experiences” of their life?
- Will you have “added to” instead of “taken from” the community around you?
- Will you have cared for those with less?
- Will you have stood for something important?
We’ll all have to think about that. It may take years for me to process what all this means for me. I do know one thing. Our hearts must be open for this kind of impact to occur. When our hearts are open we can be about something bigger and greater than ourselves. As I recently learned at a men’s conference, “we all have a part to play in God’s epic story of redemption”. Let’s take some time this week to examine the kind of legacy we are leaving to the world around us. If we do it right our reception line might circle the block as well!