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When Contribution Becomes Legacy

Terrhonda Hillman
By Terrhonda Hillman

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Death is inevitable.  We all must die.  Though our souls may continue the journey, our lives here on earth have an expiration date.  Throughout life, we find ourselves searching, but we are often unsure about what we are searching for.  We try to find purpose in things until we encounter the importance of finding our life’s purpose.  Until we unite with our purpose, life seems meaningless.  We know that there must be something better than a routine life based in mediocrity.  We develop a fear of dying because we are not making a meaningful contribution to the world. We fear dying before we make some sort of impact.  We fear dying when we have not lived.  Les Brown gives a speech where he speaks of a death bed surrounded by ghosts.  The ghosts are the ghosts of dreams and unfulfilled potential that the dying person never acted on.  The ghosts are glaring at the person angrily because when the person dies, the dreams must go to the graveyard with him/her.  Who wants to live without leaving her mark? Who wants to leave here without making some contribution?  You may try to spray paint, “I was here” on the side of a building, but it will eventually fade away.  It is imperative that we live to not just leave our mark, but to leave a legacy.  To embody a life fulfilled, a life of service must be at the helm. In this world, we all have the opportunity to be the recipients of the contributions of our ancestors and we have the ability to be contributors to those around us as well as those who come after we have transitioned on.  Being a contributor allows us the opportunity to make a difference.

The untimely death of my mother at the tender age of 48 was extremely detrimental and very terrifying to me.   Her death caused fear to increase in me with each year that passed bringing me closer and closer to my 48th birthday. I believed that my mother dying young was an indication that my life span may be shortened.  I was in my early twenties as I watched cancer slowly take my mother’s life. The observation crippled me. Only recently, decades later, have I found the words to describe my experience.  I eventually came to realize that it is not the length of time spent on earth that matters.  What matters is what you do with the time you have been allotted. To live a life fulfilled, discover your purpose and use it to impact present and future generations. Contribution goes further than a monetary gift.  The ultimate contribution is giving freely of yourself and this gesture not only helps others, but the true gift is how it helps you. My mother sacrificed her entire adult life by dedicating herself to raising me.  The biggest contribution she left to me was a spirit of empathy and unconditional love for all humanity.  She taught me that at our core, when there is nothing else left to give, there you will find the most precious gift of love.  Money may run out, materials may be depleted, but love flows in abundance and never runs out.  My mother’s death and her undying love for me was my inspiration for writing my first book, “Daughter of the Other Woman.”  In writing the book, I found divine peace and an indescribable, never before experienced love for myself.  When I began writing the book, I had no idea how impactful it would be to my life and the lives of others.  I just wanted to write in the hopes of helping others heal.  Unbeknown to me, initially, I had no idea that this would be my contribution to the world.  I just wanted to write.  Not until I finished writing the book did I realize that the book was a contribution to my legacy, and through me it was also my mother’s final contribution.  Together, she and I are promoting healing to better our world now and for generations to come.  This is our contribution to humanity now and forever.

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