I have been curled up on the couch for the better part of Saturday morning watching Ted Kennedy’s funeral. It is a spectacle of American history, the closest thing we have to royalty here, and I can’t tear my eyes away from the screen. A grouping of all the living presidents sat on the right side and the Kennedy family clustered along rows on the left. The cathedral was beautiful and grand with marbled floors and flying buttresses adorning the soaring ceilings. Music wafted through the great hall from choirs and Yo Yo Ma, and the strains of America the Beautiful accompanied the casket on the way out.
I witnessed eulogy after eulogy that lauded the laws that Sen. Kennedy made, the compromise he finagled across party lines and the wrongs in the American culture that he was passionate about righting. All those attributes made him a man to be admired, but it was the words of his friends and family that carried the weight of his legacy for me. His love and encouragement as a father and uncle, his kindness to others no matter their walk in life, his passing on the character strengths of social awareness, justice and fairness to his children and colleagues alike all were his gifts. This is the legacy that defines the man, and while he was not a perfect man (who is?), he has fought the good fight with his family and faith beside him.
What will your life leave as it’s legacy? I hope that mine will speak of kindness, joy, love and faith. My name will not be one that makes the headlines of papers at my death, other than a small picture and some details typed in stark black and white on the obituary page. There will not be dignitaries speaking at my funeral, nor famous musicians serenading my passing with my favorite music. I hope my boys will not shed too many tears, but those that they do be with a smile on their faces when they remember dancing like fools in the living room with their silly mom or weathering a disasterous camping adventure with someone who clearly is more at home in a Hilton than a tent. I hope my friends reminisce over several bottles of good wine, with loud laughing and stories of the friend that I was to them. That they toast to my foibles on many fronts and celebrate that I did the best I could with grace. I hope that the children (and the moms) I worked with over the years remember the therapist who could wait patiently for months for the next breakthrough in their progress, to high five and celebrate all the little victories they worked so hard for, victories that might easily be missed in the big picture of life. I want to be remembered for letting people in on the highway, whether they wave thanks or not; for actually taking time to listen to someone’s reply when I ask them how they are doing today; for making the most of the life I have been given. This is the legacy that I want to be known for.
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