My dear friend and neighbor, Lynne Craft, recently sent me the following message:
When I dressed for my family’s Thanksgiving celebration, I put on the bracelet that June had given me several years ago. I have thought a lot lately about the hours she and I spent making those bracelets and laughing together while you and Chuck were out biking or visiting on your back patio. I got to know her well as she shared her crafting techniques with me. She was a beautiful soul.
My two grandsons were both intrigued by the bracelet. Miles, the seven-year-old, couldn’t believe it was made of safety pins. I took it off and he carefully examined the construction.
Then he said, “This is sooooooo cool. Momma uses safety pins to hold our clothes together when they break. How did you make this?”
I told him a very dear friend of mine made the bracelet and gave it to me. She then taught me how to make them. He asked, “On our next sleepover, can we make one for Momma?”
It was so sweet, I couldn’t help but get choked up. I told him we would, and he could give it to her for Christmas.
If you ever wonder what legacy you will leave behind when you depart this earth, take a moment to examine the everyday interactions you have with the friends and family who move through your life. It may be the smallest gesture, a simple word, a seemingly insignificant shared experience that reverberates for generations to come. It may be your own grandchild or relative who stows away a memory of you that influences who they become or how they carry themselves in the world.
Or it may be a youngster you have never met, who was not yet born when you were friends with his grandmother, who internalizes your kindness and wants to mimic your talents so he can bestow his mother with a special gift—a gift that she may later share with her own grandchild.
June, our former neighbor, recently succumbed to cancer after a long and difficult struggle. A few years ago she and her husband, Chuck, had moved to Massachusetts to be closer to family. It was hard for those of us left behind to be aware of the decline in her health while being so physically removed and unable to help.
But her spirit has clearly not left us, and moments of her life will be cherished by those who knew her—and even some who didn’t. Our human engagements are as complex as the construction of that bracelet, and sometimes as tangled and inscrutable. We can’t always recognize our influence or the sway we hold. When we’re at our best, in fact, we don’t worry about how others perceive us. We forget that they’re watching.
Upon inspection, our lives are a collection of ordinary moments strung together to fulfill largely ordinary goals. The extraordinary is rare, and perhaps unnecessary. As we piece together our personal histories, we make mistakes, undo errors, are surprised by unexpected pricks to our ego or our conscience or our sense of self.
But the body of work we leave behind can only be discerned by those who loved us. What matters is not really for us to decide. As we relish time with family and friends during the holidays, I encourage you to focus on the little things—the laughter with a friend, the solace offered to one who grieves, a safety pin produced to mend a tear—rather than worrying about the lavish spectacle or the ostentatious gift. What may seem inconsequential to us today is what may eventually define us.