Posts Tagged ‘Suicide’

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

May 20, 2018

(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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The Value of Just Holding On

April 6, 2012

Sometimes it’s all you can do just to hold on. And that’s OK. That’s enough. That’s what it takes.

Of course, it goes without saying, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” So there is also a time for just letting go.

Getting them right is what matters.

History is replete with names of those we remember just because they knew to just keep holding on: Christopher Columbus, Helen Keller, the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, Mother Teresa, and many others. We remember the names of famous battles for just holding on, even to the point of death: Thermopylae, Masada, the Alamo, Gettysburg, Normandy—the list goes on. Scripture has its own “Hall of Fame”—Hebrews chapter 11 lists many who just held on: Noah, holding on for 120 years building, and then another full year afloat; Moses, holding on to the possibility of creating a free people out of slaves (even holding out against the Lord, who more than once told Moses to move over and let him kill them all and start over with Moses!), Jacob wrestling with the angel and holding on till he limped. Our favorite heroes in books and movies are often those who held on against extreme odds: Frodo, Luke Skywalker, Rocky Balboa, Neo, Jake (in Avatar), and more. We admire survivors and survival stories, and tell them to ourselves and our children, and even make up reality shows based on seeing who can hold on the longest!

Why do we hold on? What do we hang on to? What makes us hold on? What is it that makes us value tenacity, total loyalty, unflinching bravery? There’s something unquenchable in the human spirit. Maybe it’s related to the will to live. Maybe it’s more.

Sometimes we hold onto HOPE. Sometimes it is knowing that what we’re holding onto is somehow “RIGHT”—right and good and just and wholesome and fair and desirable. Sometimes it is the encouragement of someone whose insight we respect, telling us that we CAN do it, that it IS worthwhile, that the end IS IN SIGHT. Sometimes it’s because, as the song says, “I still haven’t found what I’m lookin’ for.”

Sometimes it is because we have seen others not hold on, and we know how devastating that can be. I had a professor in college who used to say, with a twinkle in his eye, “Don’t commit suicide today—you can always do it tomorrow.” And I did find it humorous, but it helped me because I had seen personally how my own father’s NOT holding on impacted my life—he committed suicide when I was only 3 and my sister 2. But maybe, in his own way, even he held on—he had 3 other bullets under his pillow, but at 6:45 am, told my mom to get up and fix breakfast. Somehow he found some measure of hope and allowed us to live. Even in the ultimate giving up, he held on. At least I have to hold onto that belief.

And if I’m wrong? There are a lot of places where being wrong IS clearly wrong. But here, I don’t think it is. Holding onto that kind of faith and hope has enabled me to live more than twice as long as he did, and to see my grandchildren, one of them almost grown. Even holding onto the failures of those who have preceded us—or even our own failures—can be a good thing, if it points us toward holding on in the right way.

Just hold on. Someone needs you to.