Posted by: chlost | March 10, 2013

What we leave behind

Hip, Hip, Hurra, 1888 Public domain, Image via Wikipedia

Today would have been my father-in-law’s 100th birthday.

Here’s to you, Paul!

It makes me think about my life. Will I make it to 100? If not, will there be anyone who will remember me and lift a glass to me on my 100th?

My only wish if I were to make it to 100 is that I be aware enough to celebrate it, and be healthy enough to raise a glass.

If not, then go ahead without me and raise the glass to my memory. I’d prefer that.

My f-i-l died at age 86. He outlived his wife by over a decade.  Although he struggled with diabetes and high blood pressure, he worked to keep his weight down and stayed relatively active. He died one morning sitting in the chair next to the bed while he was putting on his socks.

He was still living in the home that he and my mother-in-law had designed and built in the early 1980’s, a modern loft-style home with many stairs.

It’s now been 13 years since his death.

His grandchildren remember him. His great-grandchildren never met him.

So in one generation there will be no one left in the world who knew him. There will only be stories, no direct memories.

And in one more generation, that will be true for me as well, and that’s if I am lucky.

The granddaughters’ memories have not yet become fixed. If something were to happen to me tomorrow, they would not have any memories of me at all, unless the oldest had a foggy recollection of her Ga.

Merle and his brother spend hours talking about their family history, trying to figure out what this person was thinking when he quit his job, or why their grandfather married their grandmother, an older woman. All of the answers to their questions are gone with the generations before them.

When those in the future hear about me, I want to know what they will be told. “She went to law school at night, had a day job, and children at home”, “She and grandpa were always short on money, but we never realized it, because we never wanted for anything”, “She was taller than grandpa, but he didn’t care. She had more schooling than grandpa-he supported her all the way”, “She was good at her job and she was a good mom”, “Back then, women were still doing most of the work on the job and at home, but she and grandpa shared almost everything’.

Sorry, I probably won’t be leaving behind anything of much financial value. No cash, no big investments, no family heirlooms.

The legacy I hope to leave:

“She really loved all of us”


Because in the end, nothing could be better than that.



  1. Don’t leave your grand and great grand children wondering about who you were. Write it down. Tell them. Write about the world you lived in. How people lived and worked, what things cost. Include pictures of everyday things like cars, furniture, appliances. These will all be of great interest to future readers. They can see and hear (read) about the world you walked through. This will let them know how much you loved them – by leaving something of yourself behind that they can touch and hold. Not riches, but enrichment.

    • You are right. I do have a journal, and I am writing some things down as you suggest. Your comment makes me realize that I should be more consistent with that, and that I may want to add a few other things into it. I like the idea of the price of things. Of course, maybe someday soon money will be non-existent.

  2. “Because in the end, nothing could be better than that.”

    In the end nothing else really matters.

    • Exactly.

  3. I’m with you … living to 100 is only ok as long as I’m in sound mind and body. If I can’t remember anyone, and can’t get out of bed, then, being 100 isn’t for me….

    I think you bring up something we all think about, maybe not always on a conscious level, but, it’s there nonetheless, this desire to be remembered when we’re gone. I think that’s what drives some people to be famous, because their chance of being remembered a hundred years later is better than for the rest of us. I think though, if you can leave this world with the legacy among your friends and family that you loved them all, you’ve done all you can.

    • I know that you are caring for your mom, so you see some of the same issues I see as people age. It is very difficult to watch. I hope to be here, but want to be “with it”.

  4. I think money is the least of it. I also just want my kids (and with any luck, my grandkids, to remember how much I loved them.

    • It was a revelation to my husband in particular to be told by our kids-who are now adults-that they never thought we struggled financially when they were young. For example,they only remember the fun they had on road trips, and they pitied their cousins who flew to Disneyworld. Our family had the fun vacation camping, as they saw it. And we did have fun!

  5. Yes, that is the true perspective about generations. I think a lot about my father in law and then I realize that he has been gone 19 years! I know that my son still thinks of him, and gave his son Grandpa’s name. My son had just barely turned 10 when Grandpa died, yet he had an impact on his life. Yes, I wonder what my legacy and my husband’s legacy will be. We live very far from where out adult children have moved, and we are quiet people, not prone to carry on about our personal philosophies. Hmmmm.

    • I don’t know that quiet means that you don’t have an impact.In fact, it often has a stronger and more long-lasting impact than those who are loud and brash. Your father-in-law must have been quite a person to have made an impact in the first ten years of your son’s life.

  6. An AIDS patient once said, “Love is all we have at the end.” I believe that.

    • Wise person.

  7. Stories and lots of love. Those are the best things to give our loved ones. It’s nice to leave a little money if you have any, but not too much. Nothing seems to cause problems in family like a pot of money.

    • Well, no one has to worry about me leaving too much money. The love and stories is all they can expect.

  8. Interesting reflections. Your conclusion of wanting to be remembered for the love you gave is enough any of us could hope for. So many more ways to be remembered now, too, than previous generations, given technology today. Do keep writing bits and pieces of your life. Perhaps one day you’ll want to put them all together, or if not the stories will still have interest to those you’ve left behind.

    • Thanks–I started this blog with a partial intention of using it for the stories. But I am not sure that any family members read here. I have not dorectly told anyone about the blog. I do have a journal that I have used sporadically to write to my grandchildren in the old-fashioned way. Hopefully, they will find that interesting.

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