Cemeteries are incredible places. When was the last time you visited one? It may sound a bit morbid, but I recently walked through a cemetery for no reason other than I wanted to experience the stunning silence and imagine the stories.
I found it fascinating how, in my direct field of vision was a gravestone with a name and some numbers etched into it, but what those letters and numbers represented was a lifetime of experiences, successes, failures. It represented a person, a human being who walked around like I currently am, taking up a small bit of space on this spinning blue planet, writing a story to be remembered by their children, grand children, and perhaps great grandchildren, before perhaps eventually being forgotten.
It is sort of beautifully depressing to think about. Even famous people aren’t typically remembered into future generations. How many famous actors or actresses can you name from, even the 1950s?
As I walked around the cemetery I couldn’t help but feel bad that out of the thousands of lived years combined among all of those buried at that cemetery, I didn’t know any of them. I didn’t know how any of them impacted those around them… except for one section. That particular section was marked for veterans. You see, despite not knowing one of those names, I knew that each of those tombstones represented a person who selflessly spent part of their life defending our country so that each and every American could experience life as they know it, with the freedoms we possess for generations to come. Even though I didn’t know any of their names I stood there grateful for the way those individuals chose to live their lives. Me, and millions of others, literally feel the impact from the way they chose to live their lives.
Does that mean you have to serve in the military to leave a positive impact and lasting legacy? Of course not. Each of the names in that cemetery had some sort of impact, whether I knew what that was or not.
But some people leave a more tangible legacy than others. So the question is, how do you want people to remember you? Who do you wish to impact and how do you wish to impact them? If that person is walking past your gravesite one day, what will your gravesite say about you and the way you lived? Will they experience your legacy and in what way?
Legacy planning is a lot like starting a business. It starts with a vision or idea for how you want to be remembered. Then, establish your target market. Who do you wish to have an impact with? Is it your family? Those closest to you? Is it children with disabilities, or those suffering from Parkinson's disease? Is it students at your alma mater?
Once your vision is born and you’ve thought about who you want to impact, you’ve already answer the “who” and the “why”, now you can more easily establish your plan for the what and the how. If it is your alma mater, perhaps you would like to start a scholarship in your name. Or donate to a new building project. Perhaps you would like to volunteer some time to go tutor students or teach a class. Maybe it is simply taking time once a week to pickup trash around the campus to keep it clean.
You see how starting with a vision helps the rest of the plan come into clearer focus?
We are all given just a few short years to take up just a bit of small space on this spinning blue planet, what will your legacy be?