These days, “How will my life matter?” is one of those deeper queries that is coming to the surface. Once daunting to contemplate, maybe it doesn’t need to be so tough. While whatever legacy I leave will be the judgment of those who survive me, the very least I can do now is to freely express who I am as a unique being in the world. And, let that be enough. And, that’s a challenge in itself.
Today, in the YMCA swimming pool, a man I hardly know told me how much he admired me coming to the gym to swim, given that I have a walker in tow. “You are my inspiration,” he said, “and have been for a while.” Given that he comes to the pool with crutches that replace one of his legs, he, also, has long been one of my inspirations.
For the first time, today our exchange was more than a minimal greeting. He said he was turning 60. I asked: “What questions does that raise for you?” He shrugged: “Nothing much. I’m just here to live the rest of my life as well as I can.” Surprised at the ease of his answer, I persisted, “But so many I know reach 60 and are dumbfounded at the new concerns they face about how to manage the unknown terrain ahead.”
He explained: “I did that work already. As a young man, I nearly died of bone cancer and lost a leg in the process. I made peace with my mortality, and decided to have a great life. Which I have done. My age and physical limitations are non-issues. I’m looking forward to the rest of what has already been a wonderful life.”
With my 78th birthday coming up, I will have lived 28,460 days. I’ll make a guess and consider that I may have 3,650 more to complete my tenure on the planet. Given my time remaining, how will I live these days? In what ways will I contribute?
Maybe one way to look at life legacy is really simple. Just do your life in the most vibrant and joyful way that you can, growing and changing and being with the adventures offered each and every day.
As my swim friend and I discovered, in ways previously unbeknownst to either of us, his way of showing up mattered to me… and my way of showing up mattered to him.