My mother always said: “When things get tough, go out for a run!” I’ve found that advice—issued regularly from my physical educator parent—to have been of benefit. She probably doesn’t know how much these words, and the release they prompted, have helped over the years to neutralize and bring clarity to whatever I was suffering at the moment. In later years, however, I had to balance her advice with my own lived wisdom, “When things get tough, it’s also deeply healing to shed your tears.”
Another important legacy from my mother : “I’m never going to leave to my six children the mess I was left at my parents’ death.” And she was true to her word. It was a magnificent legacy. At her passing, we had almost nothing to do except mourn and celebrate. She had started her preparations 20 years prior, communicating each of them fully, and executing every one of them with precision. The specifics were found in her desk drawer, neatly placed in the folder marked AT MY DEATH.
And so, recently, when a much younger client said to me as we closed out our formal relationship, “Your words are in my head,” I smiled. Although I didn’t ask what words, I was guessing that as this person’s life challenges persist, she might recall me saying, “Self care is an act of courage” and make some different choices. I found myself enjoying the possibility that some of my own most potent life lessons, morphing into encouragements for others, might have been permanently transferred as useful and ongoing guidance.
Beyond the givens, I found myself wondering what other legacies we might choose to pass on if we determined to do more than just leave everything to chance.
What gifts to future generations might be appreciated, even if they required time and effort? How about the words and stories of our growing up years? A memoir which only you can create, in writing or video, might help your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, better understand and. appreciate their heritage?
Each life is part of a generational continuum.
What words or models from your antecedents still empower you?
What of your presence, your values and your words, will outlive you?