Leaving a legacy - what will it be?

As we start to get older, many of us Baby Boomers are pondering what leaving a legacy means to us.

Of course, legacy could mean any number of things. Some may think it’s how they will distribute their wealth when they die, assuming they have any. Others like school teachers or coaches may think it’s about all those lives they’ve impacted along the way.  

For an eighth-grade project, student created a family tree, on the way to creating a legacy for his children.

Or the family we’ve created. It could be the books we’ve written that inspired readers. It could be our civil service in our hometowns and the roads or buildings carrying our name. 

For most of us, our legacy probably will be more modest but it is worth thinking about. Even if we don’t give it much thought, each and every one of us will leave a legacy whether it’s negative or positive. That’s simply the way it is. 

Since we know that’s the case, perhaps it’s worth putting some thought into the matter.

Considerations for leaving a legacy

What do we want to be remembered for after we’re gone? What contributions are we making to this crazy world we live in? What are we doing to make our little piece of the pie a better place?

What accomplishments can we claim that have made a difference for other people. Where’s the proof that our lives mattered?

For many of us, having children and grandchildren is all that’s needed for our legacy. We hope to be remembered for being loving, kind, supportive and generous. 

Or we may want to be remembered for being a rabble-rouser, a cantankerous non-conformist - one nobody wants to be around. 

Likely above all else, our legacy has more to do with how we live our lives right now while we’re still breathing and kicking around. What are we showing everyone around us?

  • We support causes that are important to us and reflect our values. 
  • We hang out with people who nurture us, build up our confidence and have positive outlooks on life.
  • We help others. We contribute to charities that we think are making a difference for people.
  • We treat everyone we meet in ways that are sure to be remembered long after we’re gone.

Other possibilities

One great way of leaving a legacy is to get to work on that family history you’ve been meaning to pull together. That’s such a perfect legacy so that the rest of the family won’t have to do a lot of research when they start wondering where they came from.

No sense making them re-invent the wheel.

We could journal or write memoirs - histories about our own childhoods, adventures and achievements. These are priceless to our grandchildren who don’t know to ask certain questions and their grandchildren who will never meet us.

We could go even further by conducting an extensively researched genealogy for future generations to build on. 

We also could write a legacy letter for our descendants letting them know what we thought about, what was important to us, how much each of them means to us and what we hope they’ll take with them in our memory. 

We could recount specific incidents such as a young birthday party where they made a cute gesture or comment that no one else noticed. We could let people know in writing how much we love them.

That’s a legacy no one will forget.

Organizing all the family photographs and other documents so that they are accessible and make sense to anyone looking at them decades down the road would also be useful. Identify and date all photos as closely as possible and put them or the event into context – why it was important enough to save a photo of it.

Best way to leave a legacy

Mostly, leaving a legacy can be really easy. Live a great life, packed to the hilt with gusto. Grow and develop every day. Be true to who you are and what you value. Pursue your passions and be happy. 

That’s the greatest legacy we can leave.

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