“… no legacy is so rich as honesty.”
— William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well
Legacy is what we leave behind. Often, this is defined by physical things – wealth left to our families, businesses built, works created. These certainly are one way of defining legacy.
Shakespeare’s almost throwaway line, though, is revealing.
A legacy of virtues is more notable – and more valuable – than any physical belongings we might pass to the next generation.
When your children and grandchildren reflect on your contribution to their life, what will they remember?
When it comes to my grandfather, there are a number of things I could point to as his legacy. There’s the home he left to my family; it was an asset that played a pivotal role in how my childhood unfolded. There are the lessons I learned while caring for him physically as his body degenerated all too quickly, attacked by a disease which had no cure.
Those aren’t what first come to mind when I think of him, though.
With my grandfather, I felt loved. I felt accepted. I felt valued. There was never a time when my presence with him was made to feel anything other than welcomed. Even as his abilities to engage with the world around him faded, he would respond to my invitations to spend time with him. As his speech became more and more difficult to understand, he still put in the effort to communicate with me and through me.
Unconditional love is my grandfather’s legacy. It’s what he left behind, in me.
I wish that I could say that I’ve always passed this legacy on to those around me, but I often fall short of that goal. It is with me still, though. I’ve felt that love. I know I need to give others the opportunity to feel the same.
As you consider your own legacy, look to the values you want to bestow. Is there evidence of those values in the way you interact with others? Are they present in the choices you make? Are they part of the relationships you maintain?
Legacy is too important to leave to chance. At The Signatry, we’ve prepared a guide that you can use as a starting point to be intentional about passing the values that matter to future generations. You can access it for free here.