When I began writing today about legacy, I intended to pull from a chapter of my forthcoming book (A Good Death, 2021). It includes stories of those who actively built legacies by Living Intentionally on Purpose.. However, though I will one day share with you both of these thoughts and the steps to building your Legacy, I couldn’t today. Today I must write about the Legacy of someone I love. He walked to his final destiny last night. He was murdered.
Lean in as I share from my journey of late to understand dying. Allow me to step back a bit and share context to the arrival of this jolting news. We’ll return to my loved one in the end.
I have spent the last three years becoming a student of the dying and those they leave behind. I am a physician and I had a chance encounter with a patient who declared, “I am going to have a good death”. I began to ponder about this good death. “Is it possible to have a good death? What were the circumstances, the ingredients, the experiences, the attitudes in which death encountered…good?”
As I began this quest, I also began to write. I wrote for myself and also those who may ponder the thoughts of death. I wrote from experiences that spanned thirty years of practicing medicine. I also wrote from the lessons taught at the feet of personal experience. As I sought the answer for my question, I began to feel myself changing. I felt more grateful for the little things. I noticed moments in the moment. I cared less about the fretful things. I cared more about the meaningful things. I treasured my very breath.
My journey through dying and death taught me more about life than life itself. This became my good, my great, my best…life. It also became a part of the confidence of my future good death, be it tomorrow or thirty years from now.
I discovered one of the “goods” found in death is Legacy. Legacy is what we leave to those who follow in our footsteps. Legacy is for those who may be one day impacted by our life. Legacy is for those who water and tend to the seed in which our life may have only just been planted.
I looked to legacy builders who had lived and died with legacy and who were alive today on their way to building their legacy. I realized I must choose to leave a legacy. By design or default we leave our histories, but legacy itself is never accidental or an afterthought. Much like the breath that leaves our physical body and the decay that descends upon our remains, our life is but a breeze that passes through a brief moment in time. It is the memory of our life which leaves an aroma of sweet tender honeysuckle or the earthiness of strength from the White Spruce Tree. Yet, even an aroma will fade as the breeze of other lives blows gently where we once stood.
However, it is our Legacy that will have an impact on generations to come. For our Legacy is the honeysuckle that grows each year from a seedling we have planted with intention upon fertile soil. It is all the twisting and turning vines that one day are harvested for their beautiful purpose to become seedlings for another. These seedlings will grow fragrant blooms and may never know the name from which their Legacy grew. Our Legacy is the White Spruce Tree that knows its purpose is to protect the one whose journey will take them to a summit above the tree line. This one will be grateful for the Legacy’s branches which give respite before sojourning onward to the Legacy he or she is meant to see. Legacy is…
I pause, lost in my thoughts. He was murdered. Tears blur my vision and the screen of my computer. Words appear double. I knew I must finish. I then pound the keys with anger and the clackity clack drives my dog from my side.
He called me his Spiritual Mum. He is…was family. Though he called me Mum and thanked me many times for what I could teach him, he taught me so much more. He taught me a special kind of courage. The kind of courage that sticks to your bones and holds them together when muscles waste as age advances. The kind of courage that would fight until his very last breath for the hope of holding his wife and two young children once again.
Courage is the aroma that will remain with many who knew him, worked with him, and loved him. Love is the aroma of a man who gave all to his God, his Savior, his family, his Church, his friends, his people, and his country.
However, even though he was young and too humble to speak of legacy, I believe he walked to his final destiny with his legacy intact. He lived and breathed for excellence in healthcare. He believed that to see healthcare delivery change that he had to understand what creates change and to become a change agent. He loved his peers and knew they were also change agents, Legacy Builders!
He traveled to Japan to begin the process of learning the steps for international accreditation of hospitals. Can you imagine traveling half-way around the world not ever having done so before? He believed and was among peers who also believed that excellence is not just possible but is an expectation of those who serve God and others. This is Legacy!
Long after we are gone and the memory of our names and lives will be dispersed by the winds from other lives, a mother will deliver a child in that hospital. She will thank God, she will thank the doctors, and that child will survive because of Legacy.
His name was William and he was a Legacy Builder.