The railroad crossing barrier had been lowered for what seemed like an eternity and my car was sandwiched between a rusty pickup behind me and a Subaru sedan ahead. There was just a scattering of “reading material” on the car in front, including an Iowa license plate and a blue plastic Chicago Cubs branded license plate frame. A light blue sticker proclaimed that one of the family’s children was an honor student. Then there was the chrome plated word “Legacy” riveted onto the trunk lid.
Why would Subaru name one of their cars “Legacy”? The name seems to be an odd choice for a motor vehicle. I suppose it’s better than naming a car after a family member like Edsel Ford. It’s too bad Mr. Ford’s legacy is associated with one of the most laughable automotive lemons of all time.
Hopefully, nobody will ever name a motor vehicle after me. What about my legacy? It will probably be different than I imagine it to be. I hope it will be a positive legacy and that people will be glad I walked the Earth. Isn’t a legacy like that what most of us desire?
I won’t be known as the inventor of handy kitchen gadgets or appliances. Nor will I be known as an infamous politician or a famous astronaut. I hope it will include being helpful in some way to others or providing comfort in times of trouble. Will I be known for my years in broadcasting or for something entirely unrelated? Whatever my legacy might be, it is a work in progress. It will depend upon how I live life and what I contribute to society.
Dad’s legacy was building roads and bridges. My own roads and bridges are not physical constructions, they’re metaphorical. Maybe I’ll be known for the detours and not the main expressway.
A great many people have lived to support the status quo or reinforcing some sort of tradition. I won’t be known for doing that. I don’t want to be put into that box. I want to be known for progress and innovation or at least having lived a positive, constructive life. However, I don’t want my eulogy to be a fabrication that puts me in a more favorable light than it should be.
Some seriously horrible people have had whitewashed biographies spoken at their funerals. After all, we are not supposed to speak ill of the dead. Do positive eulogies really mask authentic legacies? I don’t think so. The uplifting, patriotic words said at Joseph Stalin’s funeral failed to obscure his dreadful legacy.
Then there is the matter of my heritage. There is a goodness to it that extends back in time to my mother’s and father’s ancestors. The families were self-sacrificing, hard-working people who were motivated by hopeful dreams of the future.
They left their old homes in Germany and Sweden to build new lives in the United States. These were acts of courage. They had to overlook the xenophobic views against Germans and Swedes that prevailed in America at the time–especially the fear of Germans. They became well-adjusted, mostly happy Americans. I hope I’m adding something positive to our family names.
Do you ever walk through cemeteries? This is a good, regular practice. It doesn’t need to be a cemetery where your family or your friends’ family members were buried. There are acres upon acres of markers engraved with names and dates. When contemplating the stones and plaques, one wonders how the people lived their lives and what they left to posterity.
In one of Norfolk, Nebraska’s cemeteries, are monuments with the names of our town’s founding citizens. There are names such as Braasch and Koenigstein. Streets in the older parts of town are their namesakes. Our city is the living legacy. It’s rewarding to investigate my town’s history and come across people who had streets named after them. The naming of streets and parks after early, prominent citizens is common to most towns and cities. What interests you about your town’s history?
While it is wise to live in the present, it’s also a good idea to sometimes check in with the past and dream about the future to see where we fit in and why we are here. This helps us get unstuck from limited views of ourselves. How can we look beyond our precious years on Earth and leave something positive and good for the next generations? What will be our legacies?