Holten: Living longer than you think
What is your lasting legacy? You will have one whether you choose to or not, so you might as well think about what it might be.
Will they remember how you used to whine a lot about too many things or drink too much or how you used to go to church every day and constantly help your neighbors out?
Maybe they’ll remember that you used to send your food back at restaurants all the time. Or that you used to butt in line at McDonalds, steal your neighbor’s newspaper, put ketchup on your ice cream or smell as though you’d not showered since this time last year.
Perhaps they’ll remember that you chewed your fingernails, always drove 10 mph over the speed limit or wore ties with food stains on them.
Richard Nixon will be remembered for Watergate, Dick Cheney for shooting a hunting partner, Bill Clinton for defacing the Oval Office and Hillary Clinton for putting up with it.
Roger Maris will be remembered for hitting 61 home runs, Lawrence Welk for his champagne bubbles, Brad Gjermundson for four rodeo titles, Louis L’Amour for writing western thrillers and Eric Sevareid for being a TV commentator.
Everyone has some kind of lasting legacy or legacies that they will become attached to during their life which will then follow them from that point forward throughout eternity because, you see, legacies don’t die and thus, in some ways, neither do you.
Some legacies are good, some bad, some true and some sad. Often times your legacies are much more important long after, than they ever were during your life.
Abraham Lincoln was a much disliked and controversial politician in life and now he is considered our best president ever. George Custer was once considered a great military leader of men and is now thought of as a bumbling egotist.
According to Mr. Dictionary, a legacy is anything that is handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor. In this case you are the ancestor or predecessor. So what is it you are handing down?
You might be really proud of what you think your legacy is going to be and then, once you get to the other side of the Pearly Gates, you begin to wonder why you wasted so much time on something that by then seems so minuscule.
Dramatist William Shakespeare said that no legacy is as rich as honesty. Benjamin Franklin said that if you want to be remembered after you die, you should either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.
“I don’t care what my legacy is,” you say, “because I’ll be dead and gone anyway.”
You might actually care a whole lot more because legacies, like memories, love, souls and emotions aren’t physical. They float amongst the clouds, soar with the wind and bounce around the universe forever.
Of course, the real truth is that legacies are also a lot like fish and mud. The ones you most want to be associated with are like a 12-pound walleye that is difficult to catch and even harder to hold, while the ones you don’t want to be associated with stick to your boots like moist Badlands clay.
In addition, legacies are uncontrollable because they ride to work on the same bus as truth and pop up at the most unusual times.
During Christmas, as a gift, my mother gave me two legacies handmade by my grandmother in the form of two doylies.
Now my grandmother died on her 99th birthday 16 years ago this January. Since that day, I would venture to say there have been very few days that I have not thought about her because of some legacy she left behind, whether it was a quilt, a story or some advice that she gave me.
This is true about many members of my family who have shown me that even if you are penny poor, you can still be legacy rich; and if given the choice, choose the latter.
Holten is the manager of The Drill and writes a weekly column for The Dickinson Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.