“The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave.” Tavis Smiley
What’s your legacy going to be?
This weekend Don and I are in Minnesota to celebrate with the family the life of my sister-in-law, Connie. It is one of those bitter-sweet moments in life. Connie’s constant companion for these last 40 years was MS. Lately, Cancer joined. Connie left behind a husband, three children, six grandchildren, a host of friends and loved ones, and a legacy of gratitude and perseverance.
Connie’s favorite words were “Thank you”. They seemed, sometimes, to come out of nowhere. They were always spoken with a smile. She had so much she could complain about as pieces of her life were stripped away by the progression of MS. Instead, of anger and bitterness, Connie chose to be grateful, to find the good in the crappy and to say, “Thank you.”
Connie loved adventure and she loved to paint. She was always game for going somewhere and to do something new and different. Being confined to a wheelchair didn’t mean she was stuck inside with nothing to do but watch TV. She traveled. She participated in life. As the MS progressed she did not give in and go “quietly into the night”. When she could no longer hold the brush to paint, she used a weighted pulley system to carry the weight of the brush so she could direct the strokes. When she could no longer control the wheelchair with her arms and fingers, she learned to control it with her head movements. Connie persevered.
I remember someone saying “it’s the things we didn’t do that will bother us.” At the time I thought he was referring the risks we didn’t take or adventures we didn’t go on. He might have been, I don’t remember the context. But today it’s a reminder to take time. I’m bothered by the reality that I didn’t take time to drop Connie a note, to let her know how much she inspired me, how much I appreciated her. It was always on my To Do list but it never got done. I am bothered because I didn’t see her, I saw her illness and I just didn’t know how to BE with her. I was so caught up in what her life was not I couldn’t appreciate what was. I am bothered by what I missed out on.
The point of this post is to honor Connie and to encourage us to
- Never give up! No matter how difficult it gets. We all want our lives to matter. It’s in the struggle not necessarily the victory that we leave behind us our legacy. MS and cancer finally won, but they were not victorious.
- Be grateful…even for the crappy things in life. In being grateful we can discover the gems we will otherwise miss. And that is a FOMO worth having.
- Take time. Take time to reach out to someone, to connect with someone whose life has blessed and encouraged you. Take time to do something for someone else. Take time to reach outside your comfort zone and be uncomfortable. Take time to reach out and just be with someone.
Life isn’t measured by all the To Do’s that got done, but by the people who have touched us and whose lives we have touched.
That’s Connie’s legacy to me.
What will your legacy be to those you love and leave behind?
FYI: Tavis Smiley, born September 13, 1964, is a talk show host and author. Born in Mississippi, graduate of Indiana University, he is currently the host of the Tavis Smiely Show on NPR, where he interviews people from a wide variety of occupations and personal histories.