By Bradley Robertson
My family and I lost a pretty special person recently. He was 76, my husband’s uncle and a grandfather to me. Everyone called him “Pooka.”
He had suffered two strokes in the last 18 months and when his time drew near to leave this earth, he clearly said to me, “when it’s my time, just let me go.”
We were beside him in his passing – a holy time we will never forget.
The morning following his death, the question came up of Pooka’s obituary, which had not yet been written. Who would write it, and what would it say?
I offered this valuable and tedious task to my husband’s sister. She knew Pooka well, and I knew she would endear to the task, a final gift and expression of love.
I honestly could not wrap my head around this. Writing the lasting impression of one human life. How could you put all that into one, short writing?
A wise friend reminded us that an obituary is public record, giving it that much more meaning and depth. When a family wants to look up one’s history in 100 years, an obituary will be the details of birth, life, death and genealogy. That thought, in itself, has the ability to set one straight.
We got lucky with our Pooka. He lived a generous and lively life. Leaving all the words between life and death full of fun, adventure, lives touched and well lived.
Unless you have a biography written of you, it’s safe to say, an obituary is your last written legacy, your last hoorah of all you did in life, written in as few words as possible.
Beautiful conversation opened up about Pooka in the days following his death. Thousands of words spoken about the good man he was here and the lasting impression he left on many. I soon realized Pooka left a living legacy too, one that had the ability to never die nor be tucked away as record. The lifetime he spent loving people and serving people would live on in the lives of many.
I began to wonder, what is a legacy? And what must one do to be sure they leave a lasting legacy?
Well first, to ponder our legacy, we must also know our own mortality. We will all pass from this earth, hopefully into ripe old age, but that’s no guarantee. We will die. Our things will not matter. In the end, the only thing that will matter is the impressions we leave behind.
Merriam Webster defines legacy as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”
Our legacy is what we leave behind but continues to live on in others’ lives. Our acts of kindness, our service, our generosity, our laughter, our ability to tell stories, our work ethic – the list goes on. A legacy can also be negative. A legacy left of hurt, pain, bad efforts or simply just not caring. The ideas on both sides are endless. It is personal, and it is different for everyone.
The amazing thing about our Pooka is, I’m betting he never actually pondered his own legacy. I’m pretty sure he simply lived out his life to the fullest to serve people and never thought about the impression he left behind. Today, we can take time to think about it, to bring our legacy into action so we can be sure and leave a beautiful impression for tomorrow.
If you made a list of core values to leave behind, what would they be? What is most important to you?
What do you want to teach others for generations to come?
When you leave this earth, what pieces of you do you want to leave behind?
The ones that run deep for my family are faith, hard work, generosity and fun. Originally our list was pretty long, but when we got down to the nitty-gritty, these ideas were the most present. Another biggie on our list was honesty. My husband speaks of honesty often, especially with our kids. It’s something I always assumed but never put much thought into. We had strong opinions that differed, but in the end, these five principles hold the most value for us.
The cool thing of pondering legacy today is that we have the gift of putting it into action. It’s like setting our own road map. Or perhaps a compass. It sets the light to lead our way. “This is who we are and this is what we will leave behind.”
We often lose sight of legacy underneath the busy of life. We can run ragged from here to there and completely forget our purpose. We get lost in work, others, culture, social fun and life in general.
Knowing our legacy can keep us grounded and focused. For what we leave behind in character will far exceed any outside endeavor we will ever have.
Our legacy will reach beyond our families, into all the places we are connected. It’ll be a spiderweb, reaching out to many different corners, connecting people back to fruitful beliefs. Our legacy is our continuation of life, years after our death.
The greatest gift Pooka gave me was not just his legacy, but a vision for mine as well. He left us to create a vision for our family. Thank you Pooka for blessing us with your life. You will live on in the lives of many, and I hope to do the same too.
Bradley Robertson is a local mother, wife and creative. She’s an Auburn University graduate, loves good food and getting outside with her family. Bradley enjoys feature writing, as well as Southern culture and lifestyle writing.