The Legacy of Our Loved Ones

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal.

~From a headstone in Ireland~

Sometimes when people die they leave us money. Sometimes they leave us something more important- part of themselves. We think about our loved ones to keep their memory alive. We share stories of our good times, and lessons we have learned from them while they were alive. Although these memories comfort us in our loss, there is something better we can do. Rather than just treasuring our memories or sharing them with others, we can make them an ongoing part of our lives.

How do we do that? Let’s take an example. When we are having a bad day, it’s easy to let it show. We might be looking for sympathy from others. In the process we make everyone else’s day a little worse. We drag people into our troubles.

Think about loved ones who always had a kind word for everyone no matter what their mood on a particular day. Their challenges that day did not change their cheerfulness toward everyone they met. What if we act the way they did, making a point to share a little joy with everyone no matter how we feel?

If we are in the habit of complaining, doing something different will be a challenge. It will probably be a struggle at first. How would people know we are having a bad day?  Does everyone have to know we are having a bad day? Do we really get more sympathy by playing the martyr? Maybe on the surface we do. But think about how you feel about someone who complains all the time. It is a relief when they stop complaining or find someone else to complain to.

Do you have a trait which frequently gets you in trouble or annoys others? Many times we think we are stuck with who we are and can’t really change. Maybe the truth is it is too much trouble. We might not know how to go about making changes or what else we can do.

Do you have loved ones in your memory who did not act the way you do now. What they did differently from you? Imagine watching them handle the situation which gets you in trouble. Think about what they would do and at the same time imagine what they would be thinking or feeling. Can you put yourself in their place?

The next time you are in this situation, pretend you are your loved ones. Think their thoughts, take on their feelings and act as they would. In short, be them for a little while. Although strange at first, it might work better for you as well. Maybe you could make it a new habit.

Action Steps

  • Make a list of things about yourself you would like to change.
  • Pick one out and think about how your loved one would have handled it.
  • Try being that person for a little while.
  • See if you feel any different.
  • Practice you new behavior.

Selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available from Amazon.