I have read the following excerpt on numerous occasions in recent weeks. Perhaps now is the time to share it with all of you. It is from Sr. Joan Chittister’s book: The Gift of Years. I was moved to reread it when my Mom and Sr. Pauline Plante died 12 days apart in March.
What is the legacy you wish to leave behind?
What are we leaving behind?
“In modern society, to leave a legacy ordinarily means to specify the distribution of property to heirs according to the terms described in a legal document. It’s a relatively rare event for most people to be mentioned in a will.
What we are inclined to forget is that each of us leaves a legacy, whether we mean to, whether we want to or not. Our legacies are the quality of the lives we leave behind.
What are we leaving behind? That is the question that marks the timbre of a lifetime.
We leave behind our attitude toward the world. We are remembered for whether or not we inspired in others a love for life and an openness to all of those who lived it with us. We will be remembered for our smiles and our frowns, for our laughter and for our complaints, for our kindness and for our selfishness.
We leave behind for all the world to see the value system that marks everything we do. People who never asked us directly what we valued in life never doubt for a moment what it was. They know if we cared for the Earth because they watched us as we seeded our flowerbeds—or left the debris from the garage spill over into what could have been a garden. They know what we thought of people of other colors or creeds by the language we used and the lives we connected with. They know the depth of our spiritual life by the way we treated those around us and what we thought of life and what we gave our lives to doing.
We leave behind the memory of the way we treated strangers, how we loved the individuals closest to us, how we cared for those who loved us, how we spoke to them in hard times, how we gave ourselves away to
satisfy their needs.
We leave behind, in our very position on life and death, on purpose and meaning, a model of relationship with God. Our own spiritual life is both challenge and support to the spiritual struggles of those around us.
Our legacies are far more than our fiscal worth. Our legacies do not end the day we die. We have added to it every moment of our lives.”
The legacies that my Mom and Sr. Pauline left are quite frankly, priceless. Their legacies are not measured in monetary value for neither had any. And as I continue my journey, I pray that I honor their legacies by the way I live my own life.