A Legacy is Created One Day at a Time

“A jug fills drop by drop”


Everyone should be lucky enough to have a good send-off when they die. I’ve noticed that elderly people often become virtual “funeral connoisseurs”, having attended so many, they begin to discuss the subtle nuances of each occasion. A meaningful funeral might actually be one of the best indicators of a life well lived. Wakes are even more telling. What will be said at yours? Will people hurry forward to grab the microphone and share a heartfelt memory about the way your life touched theirs? Or will there be a nervous silence and the sound of uncomfortable shifting in the pews?

On the day of our funeral, all the innumerable tiny decisions we ever made, all the endless activities we were involved with and every one of the incalculable number of words we ever uttered will be frozen in time. Forever. There will no longer be a handy “undo” icon we can click. By then, it will be too late to change a single word or minute of anything. The clock has run out, game over. No chance left for a winning shot or a “Hail Mary” pass to change the outcome. The buzzer has sounded.

How will our game be played? The choice is ours and it can begin the minute we realize we have the power to influence the direction of our future. Think about what you are doing today and take a close look at your decisions, your actions. Stop and listen to the words you speak. If the final buzzer sounded on your life right now, would you wish for a replay, a time out or a substitution? We all know that’s just not the way the game of life is played. The clock can only move in one direction, forward.

American author Annie Dillard said it so wisely, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” That is the way our legacy is created as well, drop by drop. What we do with the hours, days, months and years of our ordinary existence fills the vessel that contains our life and our legacy.

This week was a lesson in legacy-building as I attended the wake and “celebration of life” for an exemplary woman who lived well past her 96th birthday. She truly left a legacy of greatness in multiple areas of her life. A loving mother, she raised four children who mirror her strong character and integrity. Even more impressive, each of her children’s spouses held her in high regard, something not everyone can earn. Her grandchildren and great- grandchildren adored her and considered her to be a confidant and mentor. She served as a counselor to a whole generation of young children and after retirement went on to be a tireless volunteer for the Red Cross in far-flung places across the country assisting in disaster relief.

As I listened to all who shared their stories and realized the impact this woman had made on so many lives, I could clearly see that it was a process that spanned her entire lifetime, acted out day by day, one drop at a time. The most important thing to grasp as we navigate through the seemingly endless choices we make every day is that a legacy is not simply what we leave behind, but instead something we build a day at a time. The most exciting thing is that we can begin building our legacy starting this very instant and we can spend the rest of our life making it a great one!

Who do you think of when you hear the phrase “a legacy of greatness?” What do you hope people will say about you after you have left this life? Do you realize that you can begin writing that story this very day? You alone have the power to rescript your future. What will you choose?


  • Grant Newbold

    Dear Blog Subscriber. Betty’s story about the funeral of her friend is indeed an instructive one. In our “Worthy Values First” system we distinguish between three types of legacy with those being: Legacies of Greatness, or mediocrity, or impoverishment. As Betty stated in this blog, each moment in our lives involves a choice as to which type of legacy we will bring our actions and our energies to serve. The choices add up and determine what we build and eventually leave. Thanks.
    Grant “Doc” Newbold.

    • Betty Streff

      Can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you took the time to read and comment! Thank you Marty!

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