Our genuine legacy in life emerges after death as the felt-meaning of our presence in the minds and hearts of our successors; our legacy in life cannot be found in the material acquisitions that we bequeath to our family and friends. The resonance of our unique journey in life becomes a source of inspiration, resilience, and consolation for those we must leave behind. In a beautiful sense, a legacy is the transference of the positive aspects of our being in the form of generosity, compassion, happiness, motivation, beauty, gratitude, and love.
In having to undertake the task of distributing my parents’ physical possessions I was struck by the wounds of emptiness and loneliness that seemed to inhabit each object. These inanimate objects seemed to be charged with loss, as if they too were grieving. My parents’ house felt completely abandoned while the memories of what was but can never again seemed to haunt every room. This space that was once a defining feature of their existence had transformed into something strange, foreign, and alien.
Aging gradually transforms our existence from a physical presence into an invisible presence.
Our own death is an act of profound disappearance; to die is to become disembodied and return to the secret realm of invisibility, silence, and stillness. The impermanence of life means that one day each one of us will become a memory; the resonance of our presence endures in those we have been required to leave behind.
A legacy is commonly defined as an estate of personal property that we bequeath to those we care about after we die. We control the sharing and disposition of our material legacy after death through the creation of a will. Death teaches is that all of the material possessions we have laboured to accumulate in life must eventually be abandoned.
Impermanence teaches us that all forms of ownership are nothing more than a convenient illusion.
The formal disposition of a material legacy sometimes reveals the more unpleasant side of humanity, that is to say, a person’s property can become the source of wretched competition, resentment, and division. Discontent over the distribution of the abandoned material wealth in an estate sometimes morphs into family conflict and disintegration. Greed and want are often the dark motivation that exposes the more uncharitable aspects of our being.
Our material legacy is something we can conveniently control through the established legal procedures of estate planning, which includes the creation of a last will and testament; our genuine legacy, however, is something that cannot be controlled since it is created inside the hearts and minds of our family, friends, and colleagues.
In a deeper sense, our genuine legacy in life emerges from the energetic qualities that characterized the nature and effect of our presence in the world. A true legacy is ultimately a form of felt-meaning, that is to say, a genuine legacy is created from the feelings, sensations, and imaginings that continue to resonate in our successors after we have gone.
The hostile sense of sadness and loss we feel in the midst of our bereavement is the harbinger of something more benevolent, comforting, and generous to come. Every genuine legacy begins with a painful birth through the transformational energy of grief and bereavement. Inside the darkness of our grief we become overwhelmed by the outrageous fragility of life; to experience grief is to experience the transformation of body, mind, and spirit.
Love is the essential ingredient of a legacy. In other words, it is the positive resonance of our presence that continues to provide comfort in the lives of our successors that is the nucleus of our legacy. It is this same positive resonance that ultimately helps us to move through the trials and tribulations of grief and bereavement and find our way back into the world.
Our genuine legacy in life is ultimately a form of friendship, comfort, and companionship that continues to thrive in the hearts and minds of our family and friends that must now continue on in our absence.