What will you leave behind when you are gone? How do I want to be remembered? These are questions I have been asking myself as I decide the next path I take on my journey. It sounds untimely to think about, but I have always felt like time was moving too fast for all I wanted to accomplish in life, so it’s as good a time as any to take them off my plate.
There are legacies in the traditional sense, such as marriage, procreation, and the passing down of money and things we have acquired in our lifetime. Then there are legacies in the forms of memories and inspiration that people take forward, but you may have given them without the intention of being remembered. Death always brings to light the characteristics and assets you focused on in your lifetime.
So much is going on in the world, as it usually does, but this year, everything seems amplified. I feel hyper-aware of the death occurring around me. I don’t know if this is because of the work I have been doing to not to block myself off from the world, or if it is an outcome of the media shift in 2020 towards coronavirus, BLM, Beirut, politics, and other recent world events.
I have been lucky in that I don’t know anyone personally who has died from COVID-19 to this point, but I know people who have had it or lost someone to it. I can only guess what that feels like, but as recent events have taught me, we don’t understand the extent of the impact on others until it happens to us. What I can imagine, though, is losing someone. During the global pandemic, I know people who have died but of causes other than coronavirus. Seeing the aftermath of losing them has made me consider my mortality and what people would say when I am gone.
For the people I knew who passed, they were loved, and the outpouring of those who knew them was inspiring. There are ranges of emotions we go through as we cope with death. I can’t accurately speak to them, but I can describe how I, and others around, seemed to process the loss.
In one case, she was a co-worker of mine who helped me onboard to a new team. She was welcoming and introduced me to all the people I needed to know. She was selfless, always wanting to help where she could, give an ear if you needed someone to listen, and always up for a glass of wine if you needed a release. She had a large social circle and always seemed to be going to coffee or a happy hour with someone. She was a mentor, teaching me about the ways of the company with transparency and consideration. We were never close in that I never spent time with her outside of work, and we didn’t speak a lot about her personal life, but I could tell she was a good person, and I always admired her. She was close to many of my friends who also spoke highly of her, so I also appreciated her for the support she gave them in their times of need. I was friends with her on Facebook, but we would only comment on posts every once in a while.
I heard of her passing through a friend, and it hit me like bricks. She died unexpectedly from a non-coronavirus related issue. I went to her Facebook page to see if there was any more information, and all I saw was an outpouring of all the people she positively impacted in her lifetime, from all over the globe. People were posting from Asia, Europe, and the Americas, all paying tribute to her as the beautiful person she was. All her friends shared stories of good times, laughs, times of comfort, and condolences that the world lost a bright light. It was inspiring.
When I spoke to people I knew who knew her, we shared a common sentiment; we all wished we kept in touch with her. As we get older, we lose touch with those we loved, cared for, or meant something to, and this disconnect has been normalized. We don’t even realize when it happens until it’s usually too late to repair. It made me self-examine the people who are no longer in my life and if reconnecting was beneficial for either of us. I realized that I don’t want to have another friend die and not have them know how much I appreciated them. Everyone who knew her has cherished something from their time with her, and I think we all learned how to be better people through knowing her. That’s a legacy.
I never planned to have offspring to keep my legacy going in a traditional sense. I always wanted my legacy to be that of inspiration to others, to help others realize their potential and achieve their dreams. At a young age, I had hoped to join UNICEF or another non-profit and give myself to the service of others, and it felt the most natural path for me in life. I explored the option of Doctor’s Without Borders, but I needed to learn French, and speaking foreign languages was too much of a challenge to consider at the time. Over the years, I volunteered for several organizations supporting human rights and the arts. I liked giving my time without expecting anything in return. It made me happy.
While my work thus far isn’t extensive and, looking back, I never invested as much as I could have, I want to continue that journey and see where I can bring good into the world. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I have had enough inspiration from the past year to know I can always help make the world a better place.