For what do you want to be remembered? Margaret Wheatley says, “My personal aspirations for legacy simplify with age. I want to leave behind strong shoulders. Shoulders strong enough for some to carry forward whatever awaits. After a lifetime of yearning to change things on a large scale, this simple aspiration now feels more than enough.”
In my seventies, my desire for a legacy is very much the same as Margaret Wheatley’s. I realize that my life has been built on the shoulders of the strong women who have gone before me.
My grandmother Amanda birthed twelve children in the Appalachian Mountains, ten of which lived. She worked in the fields of the family tobacco farm. She fixed homemade biscuits and gravy and fried squirrel every morning at five o’clock. She washed clothes on a washboard and an old wringer washing machine. She always “welcomed the stranger” with a home cooked meal from her garden. She lovingly made apple layer cake and blackberry cobbler for her many grandchildren. She wore her hair in braids wrapped around her head. She wore a lace collar, a brooch and an apron even when working in the fields. How did she do all of this? I have no idea, but I am so happy to have her DNA running through my veins.
My mother gave birth at seventeen. She “escaped” the mountains shortly thereafter. With no high school education, she accomplished many things. Among other things, she headed up a hotel in Ankara, Turkey and reared two daughters with professional graduate degrees. She died at forty three from a debilitating cancer. Her doctor at Walter Reed Hospital wept and said he had never been so “moved” by one of his patients. My mother would walk the halls of the hospital encouraging others even as she was dying. All the flowers she received were given to the other patients who had none.
I have received the blessed legacy of “strong shoulders.” My deepest hope is that my own shoulders will have been strong enough for a few to stand upon as they live their own stories. That will be legacy enough for me.