I recently had the opportunity to learn about and to honor the founder of Providence Ministries, a network of services supporting the poor and needy in the Greater Springfield area. Sr. Margaret, a Sister of Providence has been a friend for 5 years, yet I never really knew the gifts her vision and leadership have been, and continue to be, to the needy of our community.
At 80, she was honored by friends and supporters in a way that allowed her to see that her very special leadership gifts, and the services they spawned over the years, will live on.
I can’t imagine a better gift than the tangible one of being acknowledged for a vision and life of service which your donors, supporters and staff have committed to carry on in your memory. And, to have it celebrated BEFORE you die. To be very clear, this amazing woman is very much alive and kicking.
Over this last year, in the autumn of my own life, in my 80th year myself, the issue of legacy keeps surfacing in my mind and heart. One’s life can matter in so many different ways. For good and ill.
Thank you, Margaret, for this prompt to put some attention to the legacy conversations I want to have with myself and my elder friends. We all matter in ways we may not even know ourselves. And WE’RE STILL HERE with time to make some choices about that.
At the end of January, I turned 79…which puts me now in February living into my 80th year. That is a major milestone. I’m noticing life reflections increase, prompting laughter and tears.
- I am happy remembering my long and interesting life.
- I am sad for the reminder that I am mortal.
- I ponder my choices for the days that remain.
- And recommit to the activities that nourish my being.
I also pay attention when the occasional model for living well in one’s 80’s comes along.
It happened just three days ago in the woman’s locker room at the YMCA. A beautiful woman was returning from her swimming lesson. Full of vim and vigor, she admitted to being 82.
“Why take swimming lessons so late in life?” I bluntly asked. She knew the answer to that one: “Four years ago, I lost my husband of 60 years. When I turned 80, I said to myself, ‘I miss my husband, but I AM STILL HERE. IT’S TIME FOR ME TO DO WHAT MATTERS TO ME.’ ”
- “I’ve always wanted to know how to swim, and now I can.”
- “I’ve always wanted a tattoo and now I have one”, pointing out the beautiful rose decorating her upper arm.
- “A friend twisted my arm to enter the Senior Women of Massachusetts pageant (open to all those over 50), so I did. I read Maya Angelou’s poem Phenomenal Woman and ended up as 2nd runner up, and, Ms. Congeniality.”
What an incredible few moments chatting with such a model. That serendipitous interaction is still on my mind. Because…
- I, too, am still here.
- Anyone reading this is still here.
- Are we choosing to make our lives matter?
The end of each year always prompts me to look back and look forward. Over the last months as I contemplate entering my 80th year, I’ve been thinking about how and if my life will have mattered And thus…I’ve been led to to the topic of legacy. Enjoy my ponderings on the subject.
It’s a given that we all leave legacies…both positive and negative…whether we area aware of it or not. That means we can also choose to be a bit more conscious and INTENTIONAL about them. At the very least about not leaving a mess to our children. And beyond that, perhaps even leaving something behind that the next generation will cherish.
In the process of pondering this myself, and frankly, experimenting with software on my computer, I created Legacy 101 – 5 Questions to Ponder. It’s a 9-minute slide show which references some questions to get us started. Even more important than thinking about them for ourselves is using them to start conversations with others. When we share our ideas, we always learn something, and, we are likely to get inspired to act on whatever we need to do next.
Link to legacy slide show