September 2021: Never Forget

What Is a Legacy

On Saturday, September 11, 2021, I was glued to the television. I watched the 9/11 coverage for 12 straight hours. Even after 20 years we remember that day. We all remember where we were at the time the planes hit the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the second tower and crashed in Pennsylvania. We remember the horror and the pain. We remember the fear. We remember the sacrifice of the first responders. We remember the rubble, the smoke, the terrible pictures of people falling. We will never forget what happened or those that sacrificed their lives on that day. We will never forget the last 20 years of the war on terrorism and all of those that fought to protect our country. Forgetting is not an option.

The part that made me cry was the children and grandchildren who talked about the loved ones they lost that day. Most of them didn’t remember or even know their father, mother, aunt, uncle, grandmother, or grandfather. They talked about their legacy: the stories and actions of someone, their character and faith. We need to always remember and never forget the stories of people who made a difference in our lives and others.

“The values that we cherish and wish to preserve, the behavior that we wish to censure, the tears and dread that we can barely confess in ordinary language, the aspirations and goals that we most dearly prize–all of these things are encoded in the stories that each culture invents and preserves for the next generation, stories that, in effect, we live by and through.” Henry Louis Gates

When my father died, he had instructed the funeral home that he didn’t want a funeral. Instead, he told us that he wanted a “roast” (not the meat kind of roast but the comic kind). As people gathered at my sister’s house to offer their condolences, we had an open mic gathering. The stories went on for hours. People sent videos and readings. We laughed and we cried. A lot of the stories I had never heard before. The next day we had an intimate immediate-family-only Quaker style meeting where all his children and grandchildren told a story about him. We each shared what we learned from him and the impact it has had on our life. He had engineered a unique way he wanted to be remembered by each of us. In each of his three children and six grandchildren he planted stories and character traits that will live on forever.

Here is a list of ideas to create a legacy for your parents and yourself:

  • Write down family traditions and stories.
  • Make photo albums and get them digitized.
  • Interview and record your parents, people who knew them, and relatives.
  • Start a family tree and assign a person in your family to continue the job.
  • Create a cookbook of family recipes.
  • Visit places where they grew up and have them tell their memories.
  • Make a playlist of favorite songs. (Every time any of us hear “My Sweet Lord” we think my dad is telling us something).
  • Keep telling stories!

If you haven’t seen the movie Lives Well Lived please do. Lives Well Lived celebrates the incredible wit and wisdom of people aged 75-100 who reveal their secrets for living a meaningful life. Diverse people share life lessons about perseverance, the human spirit, and staying positive in the midst of life’s greatest challenges. PBS is spotlighting it during the month of September.

Click here to view.

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