Can We Control Our Own Legacy?

Can We Control Our Own Legacy?

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Listen to the reeds as they sway apart;

Hear them speak of lost friends.

At birth, you were cut from your bed,

Crying and grasping in separation.

Everyone listens, knowing your song.

 

You yearn for others who know your name,

And the words to your lament.

We are all the same, all the same,

Longing to find our way back;

Back to the one, back to the only one.

—Rumi

Rumi reminds us that while we may want our independence, we are not really all that comfortable with separation, and everyone knows our song anyway, because we are all the same, each of us longing to find our way back to the only one.

There is much to reflect on here. Even if we want others to know who we really are, to know our song as we know it, when we come right down to it, how much control, if any, do we have over our own legacy?

The work of remembering who we are, including resolving any lingering conflicts, is a natural part of the process of wanting to leave the story, or song, we are comfortable with. Life review can bring unconscious conflicts to the conscious level.

Coming to terms with these inner conflicts can ultimately give greater meaning to our own life while also giving the gift of a spiritual legacy to others.

If we don’t take control over what we want to leave behind, unintended or unwanted results can occur. Others might make assumptions or draw their own conclusions about us from what little there may be to go on. This need never be the case. We can be proactive about what people do remember about us.

There may be no better expression of this profound desire to review and take control over how one is remembered than what we see in a wildly popular novel and movie of the 1990s. Much more than the controversial story of Francesca and Robert’s secret love, The Bridges of Madison County tells of the universal need to be remembered for who one really is.

Wanting her children to know her on a soul level, Francesca leaves her own thoughts on her life for her children to find after she is gone. Though it is fiction, The Bridges of Madison County is a story of soul-making that affects the next generation. Francesca’s daughter and son both have their lives dramatically changed when they absorb what they had learned from the full truth of their mother’s life story.

They learn not only that she loved another person, with whom she had a relatively brief but life-changing experience; they learn the way love defined who she really was. This is what she wanted her children to remember her by.

The deeply human desire to leave behind a story is evident when Francesca’s daughter reads from the words her mother left behind for them: “As one gets older, one’s fears subside. What becomes more and more important is to be known—known for all that you were during this brief stay. How sad it seems to me to leave this earth without those you love the most ever really knowing who you were . . . It’s hard for me to write this to my own children, but I must. There’s something here that’s too strong, too beautiful, to die with me. And if you are to know who your mother was, all the goods and bads, you need to know what I’m about to say.”

This is what she leaves for them, the essence of who she is, the story of her soul struggling to find and live with love at the center of her life. She provided her children with deep insights into her soul, a perspective that connects all their souls in a way nothing else could have.

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