I seem to be talking about death a lot lately. This time I want to talk about it in terms of legacy. In terms of what we leave behind when we die.
Two events happened recently that shook me up and got me thinking about legacy.
Two Unexpected Deaths
When I was in psychology graduate school in the early 90’s, I had a friend named Pam Rogers. Pam and I stayed in touch for several years after grad school but we eventually lost touch in those pre-Facebook days.
Last week, I was searching for information online about her. Imagine my shock when what I found was her obituary. It turns out that she had died three years ago of colon cancer at the very young age of 44.
Soon after that came news of another death, this time of a friend of a friend.
His name was Steve Sexton. I only ever met Steve once but since he was friends with one of my best friends, I knew that Steve was dying of brain cancer. And I was able to follow his battle with cancer online via his and his wife Jenna’s blog posts.
I knew that Steve didn’t have much time left so the news that he passed away last week wasn’t a surprise. Steve, though, like my friend Pam, was only in his early 40’s.
What a Powerful Legacy Looks Like
Because I lost touch with my friend Pam, I have no idea what sort of legacy she left behind. And whether or not it fit with the type of legacy that she wanted to leave behind.
With Steve, however, I do know what his legacy is. And in my opinion, it’s a powerful one.
Steve faced his battle with cancer with courage, positivity, and humor. That’s a gift. A gift that he left behind for his wife and three children that can never be taken away.
I imagine that’s who Steve was. While his battle with cancer may have accentuated those traits, I imagine that’s how he faced his daily life before his battle with cancer: with courage, positivity, and humor.
There’s another important part of Steve’s legacy.
He and his wife Jenna were passionate educators. They founded a charter school in Oakland, California that’s provided a high quality education to hundreds if not thousands of students, many of them from minority and low-income families. The positive impact that Steve has had on those children’s lives can never, ever be taken away.
Steve Sexton may no longer be alive, but in my opinion, he lived his life in a way ensued that his positive impact would extend far beyond his time here on Earth.
What Will Your Legacy Be?
You don’t need to battle cancer to leave a powerful legacy behind. Nor do you need to build a charter school like Steve and his wife.
What you do need to do is answer the following two questions:
- What do you want your legacy to be?
- What are you doing today to create that legacy?
Because here’s the thing…we never know how much time we’ll have. Neither Steve nor Pam expected to be gone in their early 40’s. And yet they both are.
And so if you’re not creating the legacy that you want to today, you may not get another chance.
Death can take away a lot of thing. But one thing it can’t take away is your legacy. Figure out what type of legacy you want to create with your life and start building it TODAY!