So you’ve made your will. You know who is to receive the platinum bordered china, the grandfather clock from Germany, the pair of diamond-studded earrings, and your most treasured Charlie Brown cartoon scrapbook. You’ve gone even further to make certain your wishes will be carried out with regard to a life support treatment. You’ve given careful thought that there is no misinterpretation. You feel confident about those who have been assigned to this information. Specifications have been made about pain medication and how you should receive it. You have demonstrated your courage by actually discussing your passing with your family, and they are clear about your requests. Details have been completely and thoroughly administered. Nothing has been left out that you can think of.
But what is it that you are really leaving behind?
For example, a young man, his parents’ only child, was killed in an accident at the age of 21. 600 people attended his memorial service. Folks came from many distant places to pay tribute to him and his family. Although he was young, he obviously made his mark.
In a second example, a crowd of 2,000 paid tribute to a man who obviously influenced many lives. How did he influence them? By his attitude. Paraphrased in the book, Personal Transformation by Kiril Sokoloff, below are the qualities exemplified by this man and eulogized at his funeral:
Funerals can either be an eye-opener and a wake-up call, or another opportunity to deny life and resist the inevitable. Memorials can be occasions to evaluate and be introspective.
What about your moral legacy? What heritage will you leave behind for your family, friends, associates, acquaintances, and those you may have never met? What will your grandchildren learn about life from your example? What rituals do you treasure that will be perpetuated by your loved ones—when performed they can think of only you? What are the chances that you touched someone’s life that you never even knew because you smiled at him/her in a way that warmed his/her heart? Were you an inspiration or a dark cloud to another soul?
His holiness The Dalai Lama says, “Society change is possible through individual change. So just as when you see ripples increasing when you throw a stone into a pond, in the same manner, we can spread compassion. Make small contributions. It makes a difference.” You do influence, one way or another.
Below is a list of reflective questions meant to elicit reflective answers, if you give yourself time to engage in them:
Are you the person your dog thinks you are? Not everyone will choose to write a book, build a statue or donate a park as a symbol of love. The legacy you leave to your family, friends, and the planet is your own unique expression. It will heal like nothing else can, and that is the only gift you can really leave behind.