Life is short. It is fleeting. There are constant reminders of this every single day. From news broadcasts of bombings and shootings, Facebook posts, newspaper articles, and losses within our own families. We experience loss every single day. Sometimes that loss hits close to home, and other times it is just a face on a screen.
I have suffered great loss in my life. I have had losses so hard that it forever changed who I was as a person. Yet, even when I faced that loss, others went about their lives as if the world hadn’t changed. For them, it hadn’t. It was only my world that had imploded. Their birthdays were celebrated. Weddings took place. Meanwhile, my world stopped. I couldn’t understand how someone so remarkable could leave this world and it wasn’t felt all over the world. Everyone should have mourned. While this is a bit exaggerative, it is the essence of how I felt.
When my dad passed, it was single-handedly the worse day of my life. I knew it was coming, it was inevitable. His body and mind had been ravaged by cancer. The day the doctor gave us that terrible diagnosis, we knew the end was coming. We were supposed to have several months left. Yet, day by day, his functions became less. What should have been 6 to 9 months, was a little over two. In two months, I had to say everything I wanted to say to my dad, and still, here I am almost twelve years later thinking of things that I should have said. Questions I should have asked. Stories I should have had him retell.
As I sat in that hospice room, that final morning, I knew he had mere hours and minutes left. My heart was broken. I watched every breath. I prayed for him to wake up. I pleaded with God to not let his time on Earth to be over. Parts of that day are forever ingrained in my mind, and others are lost. I don’t remember running down the hall, and collapsing on the sidewalk. I only know this happened because my family has told me.
As with any passing, the days following were filled with people paying their respects. At times, I was angry because he didn’t have a big funeral. There weren’t people lined out the door. My dad, who had served in the Marines, was a former Sheriff’s Deputy, had coached many softball and baseball teams, wasn’t being celebrated like I thought he should.
Many years later, I have learned that it’s not about the number of people who mourn your loss, but how deeply your loss is felt by those who loved you. Your legacy is what matters most. How will you be remembered, and what are you doing now to ensure that your legacy is a positive one?
My dad’s legacy is still being passed on to me. Family members tell me stories about times when he was a hero to them. Random people tell me about a time that he pulled them over and gave them a “talking to” that made them straighten up. My dad was an amazing man, and the legacy he left was even more amazing. I realize that I am part of that legacy. I get told often that my dad was a good man.
Of all the things I remember most about my dad’s funeral, I remember the Deputy Sherriff who led the funeral procession. As he stopped the car on the AA highway by the cemetery, he blocked the oncoming traffic. He exited his car, and stood to salute the hearse as it passed, and stood in that pose for the entire procession. This happened because my dad was a good man. He had a good legacy to leave behind.
I hope that the legacy I leave behind, many years from now, is a positive one. I want to be known as: a loving wife, a nurturing mother, a reliable daughter, a caring sister, a true friend, a God-fearing Christian, a genuine person. I want to be remembered for the kindness that I showed people, the love that I gave, and the hope that I inspired in others.
I want my legacy to outshine any bad thing that I have done. I want my enemies to be outnumbered by the ones who love me. I want my legacy to be something my dad would be proud of.