Tag: end of life

4/26/10 “Legacy”

Good day, team,

Last weekend my family celebrated my father’s life at a ceremony at the Exeter Chapel, in Exeter, New Hampshire, where my Dad attended prep school in the 1930s. There, in this sacred and beautiful space, friends and family gathered to honor him and say our final good-byes.

As part of this week’s challenge, I would like to share an excerpt from the speech I gave about my father and what he left me. I offer it in hope that it will encourage each of you this week to ponder your legacy.

“To me, my father’s legacy is more than what you read about in his obituary. It’s not just where he went to school or what job he had or which organizations he supported. You won’t hear about it in the stories we tell about him. He didn’t create a philanthropic foundation or leave us a fortune or even leave us with only happy memories. There were many times throughout my life when we fought bitterly, judged each other severely, and hurt each other painfully. But, in the end, the legacy my father left me was to never be afraid to search for the truth, to find that kernel of light and love that exists all around us. He would often remind me that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’ He knew that in our constant drive to understand the external world, we often missed what is our greatest birth right, our ability to know the truth that lies in our heart of hearts and in our souls.

“My father always encouraged and inspired me to continue to be the explorer I was born to be. Although this didn’t guarantee that I would always find the right path, or become a high achiever, or leave the world a better place, it did insure my ability to keep that inner fire alive—and stoked—to feed that insatiable desire to see what’s at the heart of it all, whether it be in the light or the dark, and to live the questions. Upon telling him about my discovery of the no-thing, he seemed quite content and genuinely happy for me.

“You see, he was always an explorer himself. This was the guy who subscribed to ‘Astounding’ magazine for as many years as it was published and kept every single issue. He wrote amazing science fiction stories long before ‘Star Trek’ was televised. He questioned what he read in the newspaper each day and never stopped being amazed by the phenomenon of life in its simplest and most complex forms.

“He was never afraid to question our position in the universe or talk about whether God exists. And, for all his political conservatism, I believe that within his internal life, he embraced a kind of liberal freedom that showed up in his ability to accept everything that came his way. Ironically, he was as adamant about sticking to his daily routine as he was about allowing his thoughts and emotions to fly free. More importantly, he was able to love life to the fullest, whether it was in the sip of a good scotch, the telling of a good story, watching a perfectly thrown baseball, playing golf with his buddies, or listening to a favorite piece of music with his beloved wife, Barbara.

“When I asked him once whether there was a heaven or hell, he replied, ‘I believe that we make our own heaven or hell on this earth.’ Those of us who knew him well know he had both of these experiences in his lifetime. But whatever the case, he was never afraid to question what it all meant. This is the legacy I hope to leave to my grandchildren: four beautiful boys who look to their Nana and G-Pops for inspiration and the courage and freedom to explore the mysteries of life. Four beautiful boys who, although you never met them, Dad, will have been touched by you, nonetheless.

“On the day before he died, Barbara called me to tell me he was dying. I remember her saying that for the past three days, every person who walked into his room received the same reception. Now no longer able to speak, and perhaps knowing the inevitable, my father would take the hand of each visitor and hold it up to his cheek. In a moment of true intimacy, I like to think that my father was able to experience the great mystery he encouraged me to seek no matter what—the light and the love which burn eternally bright.”

This week, ask yourself, “What will I leave for the people I’ve worked with, the people I’ve loved and the world at large?” Your challenge is to give some thought to your legacy and see if you’re living the life that you’d hoped would create.

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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