Legacy is defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary as “something that is a result of events in the past”. Legacy is also money or property that is left to someone by someone who has died. I have been thinking a lot about legacy lately. The legacy that was bestowed to me (the events kind, not money), and my personal legacy that will be bestowed to my children.
For me, legacy is not a material thing. It is a vapor that envelops me like a warm hug from the past. A weaving of all the hearts that have loved me since before I was even a spec. It is outstretched arms from the fields, the sky, and the soil; it is the weather-worn tan skin, callused and rough, of the hands that worked from sun-up til sun-down so I could become exactly who I am this very moment; it is smiling when I want to curse because I was taught better; it is being gracious to those I think deserve a swift kick in the rear because I was brought up better than that; it is the sound of laughter and the sweet smell of honeysuckle under a brilliant blue indian-summer sky.
I come from a legacy of strong, hard-working, eastern North Carolina women. Sounds simple enough, but the values and ideals these women ingrained in me with every word, every hand gesture, and every head nod, are a unque gift that was bestowed to me. My Aunt Sissy’s spririted laughter and mischevious grin, my Granny’s knowing smile and “Lord, hunny”, and my Grandma Ann’s hand holding and clicking winks – These are my unique legacy. And I have the honor of adding to them and handing down an equally unique legacy to my own son and daughter.
Every generation builds on the foundations. We add to the layers of our personal history and slowly but surely lift up our future. I am constantly aware of what I am adding to the layers. How am I building up my children’s future? What will they remember, what will be important to their story? Probably too many curse words and an unreasonable fondness for cake, if I’m honest.
Even still, I hope that the central components to the legacy I bestow to my children are unconditional love and integrity. To love without conditions, including the condition to be loved in return, and to act with integrity, are the two most basic truths I can think of. And the most challenging. Life becomes seemingly much easier when we block ourselves off with conditions, and when white lies are okay because they keep us from uncomfortable conversations. But this only muddies the water. I know I fail, probably daily at times, with these two truths. But I carry on. I start over everyday, just like my mother, and my grandmothers, and my great grandmothers before me clearing the way for those coming behind us. We continue to propel them forward toward a better life than ours.