Create Your Legacy
At 106, Jack Weil says he still goes to work at his western apparel company [Rockmount Ranch Wear, Denver] every day in order to spend time with his son and grandson, who have both played a role in running the business.
What keeps him going, he says, is the chance to see them carry on a venture he built long before they were born. “I think I’m the happiest and luckiest guy in the world,” Weil says.
Our legacy is the gathering of the values, memories, experiences, perspectives, and accomplishments from those who walked the path before us. We then become the keepers of these gifts and the gift givers to the next generation. Our legacy includes our relationships, values, and accomplishments, all of which contribute to how we will be remembered.
One pastor’s wife began the journey of creating her legacy after the death of her husband.
It came to me that I did not wish to be defined by material things or accomplishments . . . net worth, degrees, possessions. I wished to leave far more than that to my heirs. I wanted to leave a legacy in some form that defined to the best of my ability what I thought my life had meant, or at least some explanation of why I did what I did, how people and events have changed the course of my life, what things really mattered to me, and why, when I came to a fork in the road, I chose one over the other. I also wanted to pass on the wisdom I had gained through my life experiences. Most of all, I wanted to review my life for myself, so that when it came time to relinquish it I could do so with satisfaction and grace, resting in the peace that I had done the best I could under the circumstances, believing that life really is worthwhile and does make sense. I also saw this as an opportunity to continue to live life fully for however many days, weeks, months or years I had left; finish any unfinished business (forgiveness, reconciliation, put my affairs in order, things I still need to learn), embark on new adventures, and continue to grow in conscious awareness of all this. . . . I did not want to die with my music still in me.
The awareness that we are standing in the space between the past and the future is a way of bringing purpose to each day. We are the keepers of precious memories that could encourage and direct the generation that follows.
When you reach age 50 or above you really become aware that you have already seen incredible changes—changes in your community, your church, your family, your way of life, the work you do, and perhaps in your values and beliefs. Part of your legacy will be in communicating what you’ve experienced and learned through personal stories that will be treasured by those you love.
Bobbie’s grandmother, for instance, often told how God gave her an urgency to go to the bank and draw out their life savings the day before the stock market crash triggered the Great Depression in 1929. Those meager savings helped to provide for the family during the turbulent times that followed. Hearing such stories of faith helps to prepare the next generation for their own turbulent times.
We can create a spiritual legacy as we live our lives purposefully, praying for wisdom and keeping our eyes on the Giver of Life, while establishing traditions of prayer, Bible reading, and church attendance. God Himself is our partner in this endeavor.
Lee Wise says this: “Plan to leave an ‘inheritance of great value’ to those you love. All of us would love to leave a solid financial inheritance to those we love. But there’s more: we can strive to leave them . . . the heritage of a good name; a strong spiritual heritage; a strong emotional heritage.”
Believe that with God’s help you can “affect others profoundly, and leave a significant and important mark on the world while involved in what is meaningful and important to you. Each human being is endowed with talents and gifts that can make a difference and will connect meaningfully with someone along the way.”
It is helpful to actually write down the legacy you intend to leave. Listen to your inner desires, hopes, and dreams. Look at your life space and identify what you are drawn to. How do you spend your time? Be sure to include your thoughts and feelings. Some legacies will center on family. Others will impact a broader group like a community project, profession, or a church group. Some among us will want to start a scholarship program or involve the arts by painting or writing as part of our legacy. For some it will be building a trust fund for children or creating an heirloom quilt. The most important thing about your legacy is that it is uniquely your own—one of those few things in life that no one else can do for you.
A tremendous sense of peace can emerge from knowing you have created a legacy and left your own fingerprint upon the world. Remember that creating your legacy is a process, or perhaps a journey, the main requirement being that you begin before the destination is reached
– David Biebel, James Dill and Bobbie Dill in The A to Z Guide to Healthier Living