CREATING A LASTING LEGACY…
I have always been in awe of the legacies created by my personal heroes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eleanor Roosevelt and Oprah Winfrey. But I had never given any thought to my own legacy – what I wanted my life to say. Each hero stirred me deeply over the years, urging me not to live the expected life – a life that was about pleasing others but left me feeling empty, burned out and joyless. I viewed my heroes as larger than life and believed myself less than them – After all, who was I to think I could leave my mark on the world?
On January 1, 2004, instead of a New Year’s resolution, I simply wrote: Please let me live authentically and passionately. I didn’t even know what I was inviting, as this desire came from a place far wiser than me. It was a call for liberation from the cage that I had created – a cage that I had hoped would finally prove my worth as I manically strove for perfection, a cage that displayed all I thought a successful person was and all I believed would make me more acceptable.
Shortly after I asked to live authentically and passionately, the veil began to lift as life showed me the more I had been longing for in heart-wrenching and in glorious ways.
My brother was diagnosed with cancer. There was nothing I could do to fix this so I had to let go, accept what was and be present. I learned that my presence was the greatest gift that I could give – not just my brother but everyone. In a world that consumes us with busyness, it is miraculous when we fully connect with another. I also came to know that life is now and some day may never come so if I want to live the life that I came here to live and give all that I have to give, I must understand my worth.
After my brother died, I read the influx of cards – notes from kids he had coached, former classmates and colleagues. Each of them said that my brother’s smile and kindness towards them affected how they now coached and lived their lives. No one spoke of anything superficial. They spoke of the heart connection that they had made with him in the seemingly ordinary moments.
My brother had no idea how extraordinary he was and the mark he had made. This led me to ask, “What am I leaving in the hearts of others?” as I believe in the end, this is what matter most. The way we show up for our lives in the ordinary moments (when no one is watching except us). The way we comb a child’s hair, kiss our loved ones, listen to someone who just needs to be heard, care for someone in a time of need or lead an organization.
To be mindful of what we want our lives to say and what we are leaving in the hearts of others is no easy task yet it fuels my life with possibilities.