A while ago my husband and I began reviewing and editing 50+ years of videotape we recently digitized. There was footage of grandparents, parents, friends and family, births and celebrations that I had long since forgotten.
Who were these people? How was I connected? Here for a brief moment and then gone. And where are they all now?
At the end of the afternoon I was left with this question: Why Am I Doing This? Why did I take a perfectly good Sunday afternoon going through old videos and trying to create a historical perspective of my life? And then I realized I wanted to see who I was connected to and to leave some sort of mark. I wanted my future family to know that I was here. I wanted to leave a legacy.
As the individuals in my video have evaporated, so shall we. Why is it important to look back? What stirs our drive to leave a legacy, to be remembered?
Indeed, once we aren’t here anymore, we obviously won’t care. But until then, why do we think it is important to be remembered? Does it make life more interesting, bearable and fulfilling to think our life was going to be remembered, at least for the next few generations?
In part, I think it reduces our fear of death. By taking the photos, videos and sharing stories we are declaring that we are here. We are trying to capture and grasp moments in time that we know will soon be forgotten. We are trying to orchestrate some control. In addition, maybe by capturing and documenting our lives it helps to bring meaning to what we do while we are living.
As someone who has worked and studied the practices of dying, I believe our need to be remembered and to leave something behind stems, in part from the fear of becoming nothing.
A legacy serves as a retrospective. I have sat bedside with countless individuals as they verbally provided a journalistic review of their life, their adventures, loves and family. It was extremely important to them and their families that they share what they did, who they were and what they wanted to be remembered for. It was important to not be forgotten and become nothing.
So in that vain I will persevere with editing videos and writing stories to leave some remnants of the life I lived, a life I hopefully lived well.
I look forward to hearing about your motivations for leaving a legacy. Are you doing one? Why are you doing it and what are you doing?