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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Leaving a Legacy of Love

I recently read a blog a mother had written about the legacy she hoped to leave her young child. That started me thinking about my own legacy.

I want my legacy to be not my house, my car or my investments. My legacy isn't even the heirloom furniture and painting that belonged to my grandparents and then to my parents. These are material things, and while they have importance and value, they are not what I want my legacy to be.

No, I want to leave my daughter something much more important, yet intangible. I hope that my legacy will be the things I have taught her through words and example. This legacy has far greater importance to me than any physical items I can leave her. In 50 years or 100 years, will the size of my bank account or the kind of car I drove really matter? Will anybody care? What will matter is the legacy of love I hope to leave my daughter.

She grew up in Russia, in a family of abusive alcoholics, unwanted and unloved. She has had to learn about love, how to receive it and how to give it. This process was slow and difficult, but she now knows what love is. This, I believe, is my greatest legacy: helping someone learn to love and be loved.

Other intangibles I want to leave my daughter are compassion (for animals and people), generosity, honesty and integrity. My mother showed her compassion through a variety of activities at her church. She and my father both contributed every year to the local newspaper's shoe fund, which provided new shoes to needy children. And my dad always donated cases of canned goods to the local food bank every holiday season. These are parts of the legacy from my parents, and I hope they are things I will leave my daughter. Like many adopted children, she struggled for years with the concepts and practice of honesty and integrity. She does at last appear to have grasped these concepts and their importance. A concern for the environment and a willingness to volunteer her time, talents and resources for the benefit of others are things I hope to leave her as well. She is a kind and compassionate young woman; some of this she learned from me, but her kindness and compassion also are innate traits.

Someone recently commented that I "know how to live," which I think is a great complement. I know people who live their lives much more fully than I do, but I am pleased that someone thinks this about me. Although I don't take unnecessary risks, I do not sit home because a longed-for experience makes me nervous or has some risk involved. So I want to leave my daughter a sense of adventure. I want her to want to learn new things and to explore the world. I want her to embrace, not fear, challenges.

I also want my legacy to include a sense of where she fits into the world, to know herself and to be proud of who she is. College most likely is not in her future, but she is attending cosmetology school. So I hope she becomes the best hair dresser she can be.

Thinking about my legacy has been an interesting exercise. It has given me food for thought, and I hope it makes me a better person.