“Children are the legacy we leave for the time we will not live to see.” – Aristotle
November 28th marked the 16th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing – just 2 days after his first great-grandson was born. That timing has always really struck me: I am astounded by how quickly the dynamics of a family can change. Within 48 hours, the patriarch of mine, a man nearly 101 years old, was gone and a new life – my son’s – was beginning. Life is so full of unexpected surprises, both happy and sad, sometimes all at the same time.
During these past few years, so many of us have come to realize just how precious life is, and equally, how important it is to live our days to the fullest. But what does that really mean?
To me, it means living life with purpose and intention. I look to the legacy of my grandfather. He came from a very poor family but was instilled with a strong sense of values: making time for family, working hard to achieve success, but always with integrity, honesty, and grit, “giving back” to his community with compassion and staying grounded by being true to his religion and its traditions. Through good times and challenging times, his demeanor was consistent. He kept the most incredible, positive outlook and a fantastic sense of humor. He was always up for an adventure and was passionate about traveling, learning about other cultures, and exploring the world. Even when he was in his late 90’s, he and my grandmother delighted in taking cruises to exotic ports, but he always looked forward to long walks along tree-lined dirt trails to marvel at the Autumn leaf changes in New England.
I never knew him to be stressed or terribly worried about anything. He was born in 1904, the year Theodore Roosevelt was President and just after the Wright brothers flew for the first time. Electricity and the telephone had only been invented a few decades before. He lived through World War I, the Great Depression and World War II and passed away in a time of cell phones and the internet.
Susan V. Bosak of The Legacy Project wrote, [“legacy” is] “an interconnection across time, with a need for those who have come before us and a responsibility to those who come after us.” Research shows that a sense of legacy is fundamental to the human spirit.
Upon my grandfather’s passing, it occurred to me that his legacy will carry on through the lessons and values I teach my own children. It means demonstrating strength of character, integrity, tenacity, wisdom, humility, accomplishment, and love to my children, so that they can look to me as a role model for how to live a full and meaningful life.
During this holiday season, let us take a moment, look to the legacy of those who came before us to light our paths and emulate the best of them as we live our own lives, so that we too, can provide a legacy to our future generations.