Posts Tagged 'legacy'

A Walking Eulogy

Goodbye is a useless word.

As we drift apart, by choice or by fate, reflexive sadness drifts in. The ears cry out for remembered voices, the eyes beg to behold familiar forms. The senses fool us into focusing on sights and sounds, hiding the blinding and deafening truth:

Nobody is ever gone.

It is impossible to leave someone you love. A relationship of any depth leaves traces of each individual in the other, small parcels joyfully–if unwittingly–carried through the remainder of their journeys in the safe deposit boxes in their hearts.

The chemistry of human interaction forever transforms both parties without fail. Even the slightest connections etch the looking glass of who we are and what we do.

A penetrating gaze into the mirror of action can reveal anyone from the past.

When I exemplify unbending honesty, I am Winifred.

When I show fierce loyalty, I am Patricia.

When I display unceasing compassion, I am Rosemary.

When I tell a sweeping story, I am Howard.

When I get an ornery smirk before making a joke, I am Carol.

When I open a door or extend a hand for a woman, I am Jerry.

Though they have passed through the veil of this life or disappeared into the fog of dementia, their lives cast large shadows into mine

As long as I breathe, they ripple through generation upon generation across oceans of time.

I am, in part, a walking eulogy.

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The Justice of Sobbing Hearts

Some people don’t get what they deserve.

As we pile through year after year, most of us are lucky enough to build an army of family and friends.  Through good times and bad, the support we offer and receive fosters strong bonds between similar hearts. The laughs we share lift our spirits together.

What is left behind weighs only on the living.

Old grudges, past disagreements and lost money are a tasty poison in quiet hours of mourning. The collection of things said and unsaid, done and undone can stop a heart or destroy a mind. This sadness is a burden for those bearing the yoke of tear-stained memories.

A long life provides a bounty of opportunities for blessings of all kinds, save one: full pews.

When decades stack up, friends pass away.

It seems unfair those who have blessed so many are celebrated by so few.

Or is it preferable to have affected more people and created a larger legacy?

My brain thinks the latter, my soul aches for the former. Bearing witness to swollen eyes and running noses confirms the impact of an individual, it a tangible reflection my mind can measure. Somehow I find comfort in the evidence of another’s love for the same person, selfish as the motives are.

The thought may be misguided, but I think it justice all the same:

Tremendous people earn sobbing hearts in overflowing churches.

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Pen Your Movie

What are the elements of your story?

I finished reading Donald Miller’s latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, yesterday evening. Having been approached to turn one of his works into a movie, the author takes an unexpected and winding journey through his own life. Miller’s trademark self-examination revolves around the central theme of a screenplay, a medium he must understand in order to effectively contribute to making the film.

Conflict, it turns out, is the driving force behind movement. Moviegoers crave a sense of resolution and feel cheated if they are unable to identify the progression a character makes from one scene to the next. On some level, their brains recognize a threat in each act and are therefore able to rejoice in the protagonist’s triumph at the end.

Life imitates art.

Day by day, we are faced with choices about everything–what to wear and where to go to lunch and who to talk to. The decisions we make shape a narrative woven into the fabric of time. Each of us plays a role in the larger history being written, as our actions affect people outside ourselves.

All that we accomplish and leave unfinished is observed by an audience we take for granted.

Our family and friends and coworkers see what we do and say, assimilating our example into their own tales. Just like visitors to the local theater, they notice what we’re up against and the manner in which we handle things.

How you treat people?

What motivates you?

Do you decide to quit?

Your legend is the accumulation of what is seen by everyone you know.

We are given the opportunity to compose our own eulogy.

At the end of your life, what will people say?

Grab a pen and write it for them.

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The Tao of John Wooden

I have a deep admiration for John Wooden.

The legendary UCLA basketball coach, “The Wizard of Westwood,” passed away Friday at the age of 99.

Having retired from the game 35 years ago, he moved on to share his philosophy on leadership and trademark “Pyramid of Success” with others through books and speaking engagements.

Wooden built a legacy of winning matched by very few in all of sport on a reputation for tremendous character and hard-nosed attention to detail. Having a mild obsession with organization myself, I write out my nightly lesson plans on 3×5 index cards with specific intervals for each subject as an homage to his down-to-the-minute practice regiments.

His expectations centered on peak performance. Results were secondary.

Drilling his players to fulfill talent instead of counting victories and defeats  led to ten national championships and a host of “Wooden-isms” which can be applied in all arenas.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.

Proper attitude is central to achievement. On the long road from “concept” to “success,” you encounter many opportunities to become discouraged and give up.

Be resilient in the face of disappointment. It will get you far.

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.

Everyone knows a person that repeats the same mistake over and over. Part of maturity is realizing what keeps us from becoming better and deciding to go in a different direction to avoid the same results.

Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

When you’re making a drastic change or tackling a major challenge, it is easy to notice what’s beyond your reach. Suddenly, you’ve fallen into a hole believing your powers are unequal to the task.

Focus instead on what you are able influence.

The rest will come.

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

A classic line, it pairs well with another: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

Haste leads to errant thinking and decreased quality. Be patient. Emphasize precision first, then concern yourself with speed.

There has to be a definite purpose and goal if you are to progress. If you are not intent about what you are doing, you aren’t able to resist the temptation to do something else that might be more fun at the moment.

A peculiar concentration is necessary to reach the summit of your personal mountain. The climb is littered with distractions and chances to settle. Without single-minded determination to see the journey through, you will fall short.

It’s clear how Wooden’s simple, uncompromising system produced high-caliber execution.

The fundamental ideals he espoused created an environment and culture in which individuals could thrive in pursuit of team objectives.

Glory naturally followed.

Most important of all, however, is the guiding principle of his extraordinary life:

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

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Grief Interrupted

“Real life” resumes in the midst of grief.

Whether it’s the loss of a family member or the dissolution of a relationship, there comes a time when “normal” interferes with emotional processing. The moment sweeps your legs from beneath you just when you were getting to your feet.

It’s natural to be offended by this intrusion.

Your mending heart demands the courtesy of rest before beating on. Time yanks you back into routine coldly, expecting you at your station on time to perform your duty. The first instinct is to point a finger and call it unfair.

Realize the alternative is death itself.

Growth invariably includes loss. Measuring how far you’ve come requires mileposts.

Heartache is a powerful marker.

To have shed the chains of suffering is to have completed your days.

You can be locked up as long as you like.  Burden yourself as you choose, whether weeks or months or until your end.

The path will be walked regardless.

You must go on.

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The Caged Bird Sings

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The Caged Bird Sings

The soul is caged in the body.

What is timeless and boundless gets stuffed into a form far beneath its grandeur.

Robbed of its essence, it learns pain and endures suffering.

It remembers bliss, though.

It shares kindness and warmth, spreads humor and loyalty.

It loves.

It raises children and spoils grandchildren. It blossoms again as great-grandchildren sprout on the family tree.

It leaves.

Form fails and spirit is released.

It breathes freely again, feeling joyous peace and walking unencumbered in the sunshine of eternal Spring.

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Be Brief, Be Memorable

A human life is a whisper in the winds of history.

Legacies are shaped by moments imprinted on the minds of others.

Shared experiences will bring laughter and tears to those you leave behind.

Your days will be brief.

What of them will be memorable?

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