Everyone Dies. Does Everyone Really Live?
Braveheart. Mel Gibson. In the movie his character commented that he didn’t want to die, but we all die. We don’t all really live.
That was the first time I heard that comment phrased in exactly that way, and it struck me as profound, as comments such as these often do. It also set me to thinking… Do any of us really live? And if so, how do we do it?
I’ve often thought of death and dying. When you sit in an ICU waiting room for six months watching your mother die, you think about it a lot.
You wonder a great deal, too. During that time, my mother and I discussed many things. She spoke often of her grandmother… a woman who died long before I was born.
Our essence is woven into those we leave behind.
Yesterday, I spent the day with my granddaughter. I was recovering from a medical procedure and my angel (4) was home with an ear infection. It seemed like the perfect day for a PJ and movie day together, so her Mom went off to work and my Angel spent the day with her Gran.
We played board games and Uno. She taught me how to use her Leapster. We pulled out my mother’s jewelry and polished our nails. We talked about all manner of things, including my mother and her love for reading and ancient history. But we didn’t go back beyond that generationally, and I realized that we hadn’t.
I recall reading in the Bible that generations pass and are forgotten. I understand why. If we focused intently on the past, when would the upcoming generation look forward to the future? And yet realizing that saddened me. My angel had never met my mother, and while my daughter could tell her a great deal about my mom, I could share far more. And she was a remarkable woman.
I looked back. I recall many things about my grandmother, but we weren’t close in the way I am with my grandchildren. We lived away, and that makes for different bonds. And so I look ahead to my grandchildren and see that they’re in pretty much the same position when it comes to my mother. Unless I talk about her, they really have no frame of reference. No sense of personal history.
And I realize that the same will be true of the next generation and the next. We will pass down tidbits about those who came before us, but we can’t justly translate their essence.
And so when nap time came yesterday, and my Angel curled up on one end of the sofa, and I on the other, and she drifted off, so did I. She drifted into sleep. I drifted into thought.
Every woman wants to leave an immortal mark as much as any man ever wanted to do so. If there’s a difference, I think it’s in the type of legacy we leave behind. It isn’t about the things we owned or the wealth we’ve amassed. It’s the essence of us. Who we were, what we thought, what mattered to us and why.
Each generation must come into its own, but if our legacy is strong and good and solid, then they can go further in their lives than we did in ours because their starting point is further down the line and more developed. We, their predecessors, were their foundation. And that, I think, is our true legacy–being the shoulders upon which they can stand to extend their reach.
Every mother wants better and more for her child. But does every mother define more clearly? Better and more what?
We want our kids to have things we didn’t have. Opportunities and possessions. But we want other things for them, too. Important things. We want them to be at peace with themselves. To be strong in the face of inescapable challenges and capable of caring for themselves. We want them to feel confident and content, and most of all, we want them to be well loved.
These are not things we can pass from generation to generation via a Last Will and Testament. These are not things we can just tell them and they’ll embrace and own them forever.
These are things they grow into and through by living. The way we live is an example to them of our history. It is the manifestation of our essence. They witness and know us. They see us face challenges and how we react to them. They grasp us at soul level, and it is that essence they embrace or shun as part of their own because it is or isn’t something they want to become part of their own essence, in their own lives. If we love them well, then they know what being loved well and loving well is, what it entails and its value.
We are our history. Our kids carry bits of us in them and make those bits a part of their history that they pass on to their kids, and that passage continues on, generation to generation.
Ancestors’ names might be forgotten or never known. Occupations might be mysteries. Circumstances of daily life might fade into the hands of time.
But our essence is interwoven into the fabric of those we leave behind.
I watch my granddaughter sleep the sleep of the innocent. I look at her pink cheeks and the way her mouth parts just a bit. I study the steady rise and fall of her little chest, and my heart is full.
Yes, everyone dies. I accept it. I’m not eager to do it, but I accept it. Does everyone really live? Yes. Everyone lives. Some just live better than others.
But that, I now know, isn’t the real question. The real question is…
Do we pause and look outside ourselves long enough to notice?❧