My husband and I recently ate dinner at the local Cracker Barrel. I’ve always enjoyed their simple meals, the friendly staff and of course, the post-meal gift shop perusal! However, one thing has always bothered me about the restaurant- the décor on their walls. Don’t get me wrong- I love looking at vintage ads. I enjoy the antiques and guessing what they are and what they were once used for. But there are always pictures. This is what bothers me.
Usually you are sure to find a black and white photo of a stern-faced woman or a serious looking man that clearly lived well over a century ago. Sometimes they are vintage photos of people enjoying fun activities, or maybe even a group family photo in an antique frame. No matter what the subject, they are there. Staring at you as you eat your southern meal.
These pictures bother me because to me, they represent life. Life lived, life over. I stare at the faces, wondering why in the world they are hanging in a local eatery. Where is their family? Were these photos sold in bulk at an estate sale? Was there nobody to pass these wonderful photos to? Who are these people? Where did they live? What was their life like? What happened in their life that this would be the final resting place for their picture- that at one time was important enough to someone to be documented at all?
This leads me to the subject of legacy. I’ve been pondering this concept for awhile. Often, we think of legacy in terms of it’s first definition: a gift by will especially of money or other personal property. I know I have. I know I have thought about what my legacy will be. What will I be able to leave my daughter, my family, upon my death? Will it be enough? Will I have anything to leave at all? I believe most people want to leave something for their family when they pass away. Many believe this is their legacy.
But there is a second definition: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. This is the definition I’m leaning in to. This is the definition that has been speaking to me. This is the definition I believe is more valuable than any dollar amount, bank account or piece of property. This is the legacy that is less tangible, yet more impactful.
Maybe our legacy is emotional. Maybe it’s how we teach our children- or WHAT we teach them. Maybe it’s the way my child learns how to have fun from her Grandma, how to be strong like her aunts, how to be kind like her uncle, how to be loving like her mom. Maybe it’s the learning of how to continue to move forward even if you want to fall apart. Or how you can face adversity and still be grateful. How you can have a passion for life in spite of hardship. How obstacles will exist, but it’s all about how you overcome them. How pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. How to remain hopeful. How to make their mark on the world, showing up authentically and living their best life. Maybe our legacy is tied more to life experience and life lessons than material stuff.
I don’t know what my legacy will be. I don’t know what, if anything monetarily, I will have to leave my daughter when I die. I DO know, she will be left with everything money can’t buy. I know she will have inherited knowledge and wisdom from generations of life experiences. Strength, love, hope, perseverance, positivity, authenticity.
My sincere hope is that my photo doesn’t end up on the wall of a Cracker Barrel. But if it does, maybe someone will look at my face and ask themselves the same questions I once did. Better yet, maybe they will come to the realization which definition of legacy is most important to them. You know, thinking about those pictures on the wall- maybe that was their legacy all along.