The Word of God

Legacy


young adult male sitting in a train looking out window

“Live your life in such a way that you’ll be remembered for your kindness, compassion, fairness, character, benevolence, and a force for good who had much respect for life…”  Germany Kent

Imagine waking up on a rainy, Saturday morning, ready with coffee in hand, to spend a full day just doing nothing in-between restorative naps that clearly have been well deserved. You open your computer and start perusing the posts, as is your custom. Then suddenly, like a brick through the window of your soul, you read your own obituary. Although this actually happened more than 130 years ago, with a newspaper and a steaming cup of Earl Grey, the local press had reported the death of the wrong man, his own brother, even more shockingly. Of course, he became morbidly and strangely curious about what sort of things would have been written about him had it really been his last day on earth. The simple bolded headline read, “dynamite king” to the text itself. But as he continued reading, he was stabbed in the back or heart or wherever one gets stabbed in moments like these to read the painful description of him as a “merchant of death.”

The man we are describing, in fact the inventor of dynamite, had amassed a great fortune from the manufacturer of those earlier and seemingly barbaric weapons of destruction. The moment over a cup of tea changed the rest of his life because he swore that he did NOT want to be known as a “merchant of death,” but what or how? Some have written that it was at this precise moment that a truly restorative and healing power greater than the destructive force of dynamite came over him. We could all agree that this was his hour of conversion. From this powerful, explosive (pardon the helpless pun) experience, he devoted his life’s work, focus, and money to work for peace and human betterment. And it worked, because today, of course, he is blessed with being remembered not as a “merchant of death” but as the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize, Alfred Nobel.

“Make a difference, change the game for the better, leave a legacy, be a guide that someone else can follow and make better, and then someone else will follow that and make that better.”  Carlos Wallace

Not many of us can claim such notoriety. And this is a good thing, because there are countless experiences that occur every day with people just like you and me. I remember a moving story about a childless, farming couple who helped raise their orphaned nephew whose parents were killed in one single evening by the recklessness of a drunk driver. One day all three were gathered at the train station as the young man was leaving them for college, and perhaps starting his new life in a faraway city. Given their ages and the harsh beating the sun and weather took upon them, this likely could have been the last time they would clap eyes on each other. Again, imagine the scene, if you would: his aunt with hands curved and far from soft and tender from selling fruit and vegetables every day when there was a good crop; amazingly and invariably spotting a sincere comforting smile, never owning her own coat but rather used to layers of old sweaters with that moonlit glow of hair shade with tired eyes yet bright. His uncle sporting the perfect match of his bride of forty-two years, stood straight with just a slight suggestion of a bent back from tireless hours of lifting and carrying and selling, yet never once complaining. And there they were, ready to say good-bye to this amazing man who knew the value of hard work and family love and who was never permitted to call them Mom and Dad ensuring that he would never forget his own parents

He was nearly crying when he stumbled through the hardest sentence of his young life, “I promise to repay you for all you’ve done for me. I promise, I promise,” before weeping uncontrollably. His uncle tried to comfort him by reminding him that real love can never be paid back, only paid forward. “This,” he said, “will be our legacy that you will bestow upon your own children. Your aunt and I can’t wait to start praying for you. We have never regretted a single moment. Now go and do the same.” And so, he did.

In a world filled with entitled, ungrateful, and unappreciative people, literally everywhere we turn, it is a challenge for you and me to remember that this has never been about us but all about what we do with these months and years we have been given. Much indeed has been given to us and likewise much is expected. Stop whining and get to work. No one will ever notice all the great, little things you do, and so what? That’s not why we do them. Stop complaining.

“To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” Eckhart Tolle

Stop now and let your thoughts fill your doubts and anger with restoration. Haven’t you noticed by now that the older you get the faster time flies?  Please do something noble with your life, while there is still time.

“Be remembered for things that matter.”  Frank Sonnenberg

Share your thoughts (16 thoughts)

16 thoughts on “Legacy”

  • Eusebio Munoz says:

    I often wonder if I really help someone in my job. Often I find myself wanting to leave. And, when it feels at its worst, in comes a letter or an email from someone from my past that shares with me something I did for them that helped them through a hard time. I know it was God in both what I do to help and the timing of their reaching out to me.

    • Caro says:

      Isn’t it wonderful, Eusebio, how God waits for just the right moment to let us know that not only does He see everything, He is eternally taking care of us? It is of great comfort to all of us. Thanks so much for sharing that insight.

  • Julie Trevino says:

    Our world truly is filled with ungrateful and unappreciative people. I read that a legacy gives you an opportunity to live for a purpose that’s bigger than yourself. It allows you to change your family tree not just for your children but for generations to come. You can decide to use everything you have to bless those around you. There’s a line in the movie “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE” that says “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”

    • Caro says:

      That was a very nice cross-reference to the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Julie. Thank you for that. The Gospel of today also makes it clear that only what God sees is eternally important. May God bless you and your family always!

  • Benjamin Garcia says:

    I am a high school baseball coach and we preach to our players “leave it better than you found it”

    Our facilities, when we travel – opponents facilities, the classroom, your room at home, our program. SOLID read! Thanks for sharing.

    • Caro says:

      “Leave it better than you found it” is a great motto to live by. For me, it truly applies to all of life so that we finally leave it, we have left better than we found it. Thanks for sharing.

      “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it …” — Wilferd Peterson

  • Ron Mc. says:

    This article brings to mind the difference between our intentions in life and the practically inevitability of a third-party account (our obituary) of what we truly accomplished in our life. If the author of our life’s story, which most likely will not be ourselves, wrote a true account of the journey where our footsteps took us, our intentions would not register in the shadow of our true biography. Our intentions and our actions oftentimes start out running parallel to one another with the hope of joining but, as is the case with many of us, the two paths never meet but sadly end up going in opposite directions with unintended consequences. Or if they do meet, the connection is short-lived and sometimes ricochets like a bouncing ball on a concrete slab. No parable or passage in the Bible highlights the greatness of our intentions. We have to be determined and focused on staying on the path that brings our good intentions and our actions together. It’s like steering a tractor trailer on a slender icy road. We have to slow down, concentrate, and stay committed to remaining on that narrow path.

    • Caro says:

      I certainly appreciated the reference to not having control of whatever we leave behind especially through the eyes of others over which we have no control. I guess the only we can do, as you suggested, is decide to be determined and focused on those things that we truly have passion, inspiration, and the support of those who we truly love and who love us. One thing is absolutely true: it is a very narrow path. Maybe that is how we know we are doing something right. Thank you so much for the time you took to make your comments known.

      “The tourist takes his culture with him. The traveler leaves his behind.”
      ― J.R. Rim

  • Veronica Altamirano says:

    Great reminder to all that yes we are human and make mistakes, but it is how we leave someone feeling at the end what’s most important. We all need to show God’s love in all our actions and words. Love truly “can never be paid back, only paid forward” is the best way to sum it all up. May we all live a daily life that will not be regretted and that our obituary comments from visitors will be examples of God’s love to others! Truly enjoyed this reminder! Keep them coming!

    • Caro says:

      Thank you again, Veronica for your comments. As human beings, our mistakes have the great potential of teaching us life-long lessons for growth and inspiration. The truly failures around us are those who never learn and keep on brining others down with them.

      “We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us the spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.” St. Vincent de Paul

  • David says:

    What a great refocusing of what life is all about! Earlier today the thought came to me and now I know why, the thought that, “it’s not what we do that really matters, but it’s more ONE to whom we are connected and why we do what we do that matters.”
    In the end there are three things at last… Faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love! Corinthians

    • Caro says:

      Thank you so very much, David, for gracing these pages with your response to our latest post, “Legacy.” You are so right in reminding us about the ONE to whom we are connected and our very deep intentions. “Money is not the only commodity that is fun to give. We can give time, we can give our expertise, we can give our love, or simply give a smile. What does that cost? The point is, none of us can ever run out of something worthwhile to give.

      Steve Goodier

  • Margo Shepard says:

    This reminds me of something I learned right before I graduated high school. It was a book that said to think about how your obituary would be read, Or rather how you would WANT it to be read and live your life that way. That is always a reminder in my mind and in my heart when I am in friendships or relationships or even just around strangers. And unfortunately sometimes you still get that knife in your back no matter how hard you try to be good or be the best person for the ones near and dear to you. But that should never stop you from continuing to try to be the best person you can for those around you and especially for God since he is our creator, of course. Its easy to want to give up and say why even try especially when it’s the people closest to you that hurt you. But I truly believe that’s the devil trying to come into your heart and break you of everything you know to believe is right. So no matter how many times you get dejected or hurt or stabbed in the back, never forget how you want to be remembered when you leave this earth.

    • Caro says:

      That was great, Margo. Thanks again for sharing with us what you have learned during this journey on earth. Your remarks reminded me of something I read a long time ago and had to spend some time finding again. I believe it will perfect sense to you and increase the clarity that is always expanding: “We all want to be remembered for something. We have children, we paint, we write, we fight, we conquer. We leave behind marks on the fabric of humanity, and while some are content to stay in the background, some of us want to make those marks as vivid and overwhelming as possible. We don’t just want to be remembered. We want to be unforgettable.”
      ― J.T. Ellison

  • Deacon Ron Martinez says:

    Reading this nugget called “Legacy” has inspired me to write the obituary for “My Ego”. The ego that I have allowed to stab my eyes, my Soul and my happiness. The ego that has become larger than what my life was meant to be. The ego that has painfully accepted small failures as if they were mortal wounds. The ego that I must lay to rest today, so that I can no longer be controlled, be penetrated by hatred and jealousy and so that the good I do can be limitless. My takeaway from “Legend” is that I must bury my ego thus removing the target of my most vulnerable weakness if I am ever going to be strong and an invincible servant. Thank you cityofagape.

    • Caro says:

      What a brilliant reply, Deacon. Writing an obituary for one’s ego ranks up there with the soliloquies from Hamlet and Les Miserables which beg life-long critical questions: What happens after death? What is the best way to live, or die, morally, in the eyes of God? Is it better to act or to remain inactive? Is existence worth the pain? Where does a man’s responsibility to himself, and to others, begin and end? In Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean, we witness two individuals who are each at a crossroads in their lives, each wrestling mightily with his conscience. Both characters seek moral clarity, both struggle with existential questions, and both argue with themselves in an effort to come to some realization. At the end of each speech, each character is closer to a path forward. Thank you for providing these insights. I hope ou readers can benefit as much as you have. God bless you always as we make our way through this valley of ears into the land of milk and honey.

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