I'm sitting on the porch of my mother's home in Folsom California as I write this. My mother was eighty-six on her last birthday, and is slowly being swept into the sometimes present, sometimes gone experience that is dementia. For the past couple of years, my siblings and I have danced between her wishes to stay in her home and our need to know she's safe, and have this past month placed her in an assisted living facility. For those of you who have travelled this path, you know the dilemma and how, in the end, like it or not, a decision must be made. I'm here now to work with my brother and sister to ready her home for sale, a task we have each dreaded in our own way.
As we sort through her personal belongings, trying to decide the 'value' of items she has long forgotten, it brings to my mind Michael Josephson's writing called 'What will matter?' I send this out to you with the hope that you will stop, ponder, consider your life and ask yourself the question, 'what will endure - and how will your days be measured?'
I'm the product of conservative, working class parents who, when my father returned from WWII, began their family with all the enthusiasm of a generation that had just conquered the single most evil force the world had ever seen. My parent's frugal approach to all things material has left it's mark on me and, as I struggle to decide what to toss, sell or donate; my first inclination is to keep it all.
Few of her belongings have value in a conventional sense, but they hold memories of earlier times when a younger woman, still visible in her face today, sacrificed to buy the items I now hold. What does 'valuable' really mean when considering eighty-six years of living? What will we choose to keep; which of her material possessions have worth beyond her life? We are fast realizing that the answer is...not many.
But, we are also realizing that there are many valuable 'things' she is leaving to us. Josephson says, that, 'what will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.' She has taught us many valuable lessons. She taught us what's right - and what's not. She has always been the kind of mother that makes you apologize when you hurt someone, clean up after yourself and keep your commitments. And, she taught me to believe in myself. No matter what messes I've gotten myself into in my life, she's always been sure that I will be 'just fine' in the end and her certainty in my ability to transcend my own stupidity has been priceless to me.
Perhaps a greater lesson still is her humility. She considers everyone better than herself, a belief that has been both her greatest struggle and her most enduring quality. She will defer to you out of respect and shine the spotlight on you instead of herself. She is a 'lady' in the traditional sense of the word; she wouldn't consider imposing, is always dressed for the occasion seldom has a bad word to say of anyone.
We continue to treasure her for many things, none of which are in boxes or sitting ready for an estate sale. In the end, it's her...just her 103 pound, spunky self that we will hold onto. She's slipping away a little more each day, but her legacy is as bright as ever.
What will your legacy be? When you leave the company, what will your employees and co-workers say about you? What will you have shared with them that is of lasting value? And, some day, when your children back up the truck and haul away your belongings, what part of you will remain in their hearts?
If professional or personal legacy is something you want to explore, call me.