Okay, so I’m still a little stuck, but I’m thinking I have to purge myself of this before I can go back to normal. Whatever that was.
Cancer and early death have been all around me this week. Not in a way that begs your condolences, thank God, but in a way that’s made me very aware of my temporary existence on this planet. And it’s got me thinking about what I need to do to be remembered the way I want to be remembered.
I won’t be remembered, I’m sure, for climbing Mt. Everest or writing a bestselling novel (not that I won’t try for either, but I don’t need them to be my legacy. And okay, I won’t really attack Mt. Everest, because I’m afraid of heights.) My legacy won’t be that I made billions of dollars in tech inventions or that I gave everything I own to the poor. I probably won’t be remembered for curing cancer or bringing medical treatments to impoverished nations. In different ways, I’d love to do all those things, but they’re not the type of thing I need to be remembered for.
Rather, I’d like my children to be able to recall my laugh for years and years after I’m gone. I want to be remembered for killer chocolate chip cookies and raunchy jokes. I want to be remembered for steadfast loyalty. I want to be remembered as a good friend. A good mom. A good wife, sister, neighbor. I want to be remembered as the one who’d always help. I want to be remembered as someone who could keep a secret. I want to be remembered as the coach, the room parent, the teacher. I want to be remembered as a wine-swilling, chocolate-hoarding mom who ran races and read and gardened and cooked.
I want people to remember my hugs, and remember how much I meant them. I want people to remember my irreverence and the way I’d try so hard to get a laugh from just about anyone. I want to be remembered as someone who loved deeply, and strongly. I want to be remembered as someone fiercely devoted to her family; as a mom regularly brought to tears by the depth of her love for her children.
I think, if I were to die tomorrow, those things would mostly be remembered. I hope they’re all just a part of who I am.
But then it gets tricky.
Because I also want to be remembered as someone who wasn’t petty or jealous or manipulative. I want to be remembered as the one who didn’t repeat harmful gossip or have temper tantrums when things didn’t go well. I want to be remembered as the mom who never yelled, the wife who never pouted, the neighbor who never rolled her eyes. I want to be remembered as the steadfast fighter who never lost hope and the ray of light others sought when in despair. I want to be remembered as loving myself unconditionally, and not trying to change those I love.
That’s all going to be harder. I can be petty (I don’t answer the phone if I’m mad and you call), and jealous (I think most skinny people probably have unresolved issues), and manipulative (I’m not going to give you an example or you’ll know when I’m doing it). Sometimes I do repeat harmful gossip and sometimes I throw a holy fit when I get bad customer service or a friend treats me poorly. I yell and I pout and I roll my eyes. I despair, and sometimes I hate myself, and sometimes I think the world would be a better place if everyone would just LISTEN to me.
See? Not a list of things I’m proud of, to be sure, but an honest list. I guess it’s my marching orders, starting today, and ending on the day people start talking about me in the past tense.
Likely, I’ll be 98. That’s Whit’s prediction for how long I’ll live. But, as I’ve been reminded this week, in some ways I’m lucky to have made it to 41. It’s possible I won’t make it to 42. Or 50. Or 65.
It’s possible I won’t live through tomorrow, but I’m still going to pay the bills, just in case.
I guess maybe, though, wondering about how I’ll be remembered tomorrow will give me a little perspective for how I should act today. I'll probably screw it up. But at least I'll try.