I’m of a certain age that I sometimes think about my legacy.  Not often, but sometimes.  When I do, my thoughts typically drift to my family:  my kids and grandkids.  I hope they find favor in their memories of me (in the distant future, of course).

Most people leave some sort of legacy (for good or ill) whether it’s through their children or through people around them whom they have influenced.  We influence people every day that we never even know about. It’s often the things: what we say, what we do, the way we treat other people.  What will your legacy be?

Many people think of one’s legacy as the distillation of all the events in their life down to one or two things that will have a lasting effect.  The goal is for that lasting effect to be positive.  Mother Teresa had a legacy, but so too did Adolph Hitler.

Most Presidents—especially those nearing the end of their second term—are often talked about in terms of their legacy.  Are their current actions just meant to bolster their future image?  What will they be most remembered for when looking through a historical lens.  

I was thinking about all of this recently at the funeral of my mother-in-law, Marty.  She was the matriarch of the family.  She had a powerful influence on her family.  She left a strong and positive legacy.  Four kids, eight grand kids and 19 great grands.  Sure, anyone can have kids, that’s the easy part (shut your face, mister!).  Marty didn’t just have kids; she raised a family.  A strong, close family whom she influenced long after the young ones left the nest.

She didn’t devote her final years (as some presidents do) to burnishing her legacy for future generations.  Marty’s influence was in how she lived her life.  I think that is what a true legacy is.  Just as we ought not judge people by the one or two worst things they ever did, we shouldn’t judge them solely by the one or two things they did well.  When we think of Mother Teresa we don’t just dwell on the one or two things.  It was the entirety of her life based on love and charity that defines her.

When we all gathered this past weekend, Marty’s kids and grands reminisced about her:  Her love, her generosity of spirit, her stern stink-eye indicating her disapproval.  Marty’s progeny remembered and celebrated those things.  Her friends and family basked in the remembrance of this strong woman.

That’s a true legacy.