LEGACY 11: THE VALUE OF LEGACY: Why Does It Matter?

(Originally written 9/30/14. The grandson mentioned here is almost 7 now.)

Why is being consciously concerned about leaving a legacy important? Why does it even matter?

The only answer that even works is love.

A hundred years from now, who will remember me personally? No one, most likely. A century later, if any of us exist at all in anyone’s consciousness, it is as a name on a building plaque or tombstone or in a genealogy. Nothing remains. Anonymous dust. (Since I plan to be cremated, there won’t even be the tombstone in my case.)

So why bother caring? For the same reason that, in that unthinking heartbeat, without batting an eyelash, we would lay down our lives for the grandson we are taking to the museum. He matters that much.

True, he probably won’t be around in that same hundred years, but leaving him something significant, consciously, may make it easier for those he transmits his legacy to. Someone has transmitted their legacy, even if only genetically, to get me here, and others have transmitted culture, knowledge, and sustainability to get us all here. So somehow, it matters.

We have to love enough to leave a legacy. The only legitimacy legacy can claim is caring enough to make it happen. Deep inside, in our core, we care, enough to want it to matter. So we strive to leave something behind.

I can remember crying in my early school days, asking my dad—in my own mind— why he had had to leave me. (He committed suicide when I was 3.) But sometimes a clarity would come in, that perhaps he had left me more by leaving me—I had social security and veteran benefits for school that I would not have had otherwise. And who knows what negative memories I was spared? Maybe in leaving me, he loved me more than even he knew. I still pray for him—that is part of his legacy in leaving.

We have to love our past adequately in order to value the future. The continuity needs to be established. It took me until I was age 60 to track back past my father’s father’s name, age, and residence listed on my dad’s birth certificate. I found a brokenness in the life of his father—my great-grandfather—that explained it. He had killed his mother accidentally at age 17, and died when his son was 12. That son, my grandfather, never married my grandmother, leaving more brokenness. (My father’s birth certificate says they were married, but I’m almost certain that was a cover-up, based on other genealogical clues.)

But out of all those brokennesses, and a multitude of others, the mosaic of my life is pieced together. I have to try to step back enough to discern the picture. And even then, I only catch glimpses of glory.

But I care enough to try to leave it for my son and daughter, for their daughters, and for this grandson who is not even my flesh and blood. He may never read this, but it matters to me. I love that much.

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