It was the great Carl Sagan who said: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” And let's not forget in that universe, you and I are nothing more than specks of dust dancing around, sometimes bumping into one another, often times drifting our own separate ways. What unites us all is the purpose of legacy—that which imprints our presence on the lives left behind.
Each and every one of us leaves a trace, be it the lives of our children, a stubborn patch of earth lovingly tended into a garden, or even our nascent words or music brought to life on a page. Try as I might, it’s impossible for me to ignore my inheritance, the gnarl of an index finger, but a vestige of my mother, the nervous tick of rubbing my brow, none other than a direct legacy of my father.
There are those things too, that we take with us—we dare not leave them behind. Some are too precious to release from our grasp; others too unspeakable to be breathed into words; and still others left unbirthed and uncharted, from a life unfulfilled.
All of this has got me thinking about my legacy and how I would choose to craft it. I’ve divided it into 3 things I want buried with me, 3 things I want to leave behind, and 3 words I want engraved on my headstone.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “You can’t take it with you.” Well, that might be the case, but selfish as it may be, there are a few worldly possessions I don’t want to let go of. My one-year medallion from Alcoholics Anonymous means so much more to me than to anyone else who finds it in their possession. When I received it 17 years ago, I remember the weight of it in my hand and feeling so upset because they had engraved the incorrect spelling of my name. All these years later, I see the beauty in that imperfection, and how it has come to define my life in sobriety. The second item I would like to take with me is my finisher’s medal from the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. To this day, I’m still in awe at the amount of courage it took for me to step completely out of my comfort zone and head halfway across the world to run 89 km up and down the unrelenting terrain of South Africa. The final item I want to take with me to my grave is my pettiness that has been my undoing on so many occasions in my life—the world would be a much better place with less of that negativity left to linger.
I had a much harder time deciding what 3 things I’d choose to leave behind. My first choice would be my wedding ring, and my hope is that it finds its way to my son. To me this little band signifies all the valleys my wife and I have climbed out of and all the mountain peaks we have reached together. The best advice I could give my son is to not find a partner who “completes you”, but rather, find someone who helps you “find yourself”. My second choice to leave behind is my depth of strength that comes from being a survivor. I honestly believe that in this life, we are only given what we can manage. There are times when we feel that something is beyond us, but those are the times we mine the parts of us that make us superior to circumstance. The final thing I would leave behind is my sense of humor; albeit tinged with irreverence, it has buoyed me through some very tense moments throughout the years.
And last but not least are the 3 words I’d like engraved on my headstone. Every life is marked by two dates and a dash, the year we came in and the year we go out. Today, my life is all about “living the dash”. The 3 words that anchor me to that dash are: gratitude, surrender, and resilience.
I invite you to find a quiet place, sit down, and craft your own list of three 3s.