I have forever felt the need to do something with my life that would leave a mark. I think about people like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, MLK etc. and how they will be remembered forever for what they accomplished in their short time here on earth. It has always been a wonder for me about why we are all here. Would I waste my time here? Who would know that I was here after I am gone?
Those people I mentioned did things that didn’t take the money of a Bill Gates or Elon Musk. They were great on their merits and their beliefs, their passion to do what was right. There was no twitter or Facebook with a “million “followers or enough money to influence people’s opinions or beliefs.
What do normal everyday people leave behind? How will we be remembered when we are gone?
My mother lived a somewhat normal life as she never invented anything or created a niche for people to follow her but she did do one thing extraordinarily well. She devoted her life to her family. My mom may not have done everything perfectly right raising us but the one important thing she did do, was make us know love. There has never been a moment in my life, that I did not know my mom’s love for me.
I remember my mom telling us how being a mom was the one thing she wanted in her life. In fact, she gave up a promising career as a singer to marry my dad and raise a family. Not much of that going around these days, I can tell you that. It showed up every day in the box score, just how much that was true.
When I was a young boy playing little league ball, my mom would be there every game to cheer me on even though I was terrible. I could hear her yell “confidence “from the stands. Although I tried to hide in embarrassment then, later in life I realized just how much that inspired me to take chances and not fear the outcome.
I believe my mom became who she was despite having the relationship she did with her mother. I believe my fathers family gave her all the love she craved and didn’t get from her mother or siblings and in turn she gave it back tenfold to her family. I don’t mean her immediate family but her ENTIRE family. I can remember vividly how she was always there for my Uncle Shookie during his worst and most embarrassing moments of his life. While most families would have turned him away for his horrible behavior, she would just love him and try to make him understand that he was loved. I know why she was always my Uncle’s favorite person and why he loved her so much, even though he never quite found his way until shortly before his death.
My mom had the unique ability to attract hurting or dysfunctional young people in need of love and friendship. It was amazing to me that despite our chiding her for the way these people found their way to her she just continued her way of comforting them. She would say she was doing Gods work but I believe she truly enjoyed her time spent with each and every one of them knowing that she was giving them something they couldn’t find anywhere else, love.
Over the last three weeks, prior to, during and after her passing, I have done a lot of thinking about her legacy. My family and I have been going through and clearing out her “items” she had collected over her lifetime. “Collected “may actually be the wrong word as “hoarding” might be more appropriate. My mom never threw anything away if she felt she had a connection to it or that she might someday need it in the distant future. When I say “distant future” its no joke. We found everyday junk mail, greeting cards, acorns, clipped hairs, wish bones and newspaper clippings form the 40’s and 50’s. Thousands of pictures, some of people we have no idea who they were. And journals, personal journals of her life, that we have yet to peruse, more so out of fear of what we will read then lack of time to do so.
But through all our discoveries, I learned about a person’s legacy. I realize now that it isn’t important if the whole world knew you existed. Or if you leave behind a fortune or some invention no one thought of. It doesn’t matter if you traveled the world or just your neighborhood. What matters is if you affected just one person’s life in a way that made it better. In a way that they would remember how you imprinted something in them that changed the course of their life. Made them feel loved when they never knew what that meant. Took time to listen to their stories over and over and smiled like you heard them for the first time. Was a friend because you cared about their soul not just because they drove you to the mall on Thursdays.
This was my mom’s legacy. She touched the lives of so many people we didn’t know and left lifelong impressions on them. We learned this from all the cards and letters she received in her life that she never discarded. Letters from children, some of which, now adults, came from miles away to show their respect and share their stories of my mom with my family. We learned this from the phone calls we received from those too far away but still thought enough to reach out to us and let us know what my mom meant to them. My mom left lasting impressions on almost everyone she spent time with. I believe that my mom, although a hoarder in her own way, left behind all these boxes of memories, not so much for her, but for us. For us to discover and later celebrate her life and all the things that were important to her. Even though we would laugh at how she would save some of the things we discovered, I began to realize that the laughter was a good thing. That even though I am sad from her leaving us, she still had one last way to make us feel loved and happy. She put us in a place where we could learn the things about her that we never knew. Learn of a part of the person she was that we somehow never understood the magnitude of.
When I raised my glass to toast my mom, I asked everyone to not just remember my mom but to never stop telling her stories or teaching their kids and their grand kids about her. In reality, we keep those who passed alive by talking about and sharing their stories and as long as we continue to do so they are never really gone.
This, in the end, is how we keep our loved ones alive, share in and continue their legacy….
I love you mom..