Up until yesterday on my wife's side of the family we had five generations living. My wife lost her Great Grandmother yesterday. At one point when my daughter was very young on her mother's side of the family we had five generations alive for a short while. In each case we have pictures with all five members together. That doesn't happen very often.
At times like this where life confronts us with our own mortality I think about how I will be remembered.
You will be remembered for the person you ARE! You will be remembered for the accomplishments you achieved in your life. You will be remembered for those you left behind, your family members.
I once had a regular acquaintance with a man who owned several companies, had helped save countless other companies. He was very knowledgeable in the art of motivating and paying people for the work they do. Needless to say every company he owned was highly successful, because he watched and monitored them, and because everyone who worked for him got a bonus based off the performance of the company. The guy is a genius who has forgotten more about marketing than anybody on Madison Avenue will ever learn in their lifetime.
The most amazing thing about this gentleman is the fact that no matter what you do for a living, no matter what your station in life, this man would make you feel important by stopping and listening to you. He really listened and paid attention to people, all people. He was genuinely interested in people and what they were doing, where they were from. He loved people. This only added to his genius by making him liked by everybody he ever met. He was intelligent, charismatic, charming, jolly, and interesting, but if you were not careful you would be the only one talking. He listened very well.
When I think about how I would like to be remembered, I think of this man. I strive to be like him in the way that he treated others. I strive to listen to others, and try to be genuinely interested in what others are doing and interested in them. It is hard for me. I have no trouble hearing and consider myself a very good listener. As a fledgling writer, everybody has to tell me about their great idea for a book. It is hard to listen when I know that no matter how great their idea is I will not use it. If I don't come up with the story myself and make up the characters, the scenes, and twist the plot until I start to confuse myself, then I will not touch it. I will always be this way for all the obvious reasons. The IDEAS are the easy part. I have enough ideas to keep me writing for the next twenty years. It's the writing every day, the re-writing, editing, re-submitting for further editing, re-writing again. Going through the same story so many times over months that you feel you are going to freak out! That's the hard part!
I do like people on a one on one basis. I am not and cannot be interested in everybody all the time. I try like hell to be open minded, and seek out the inner beauty in people. There are some people who are not nice, no matter which way you slice it. There are some people whose view of the world is so far off quilter and out of whack that I end up doing my best Dean Martin straight man imitation while asking questions and trying not to laugh out loud at their answers. You walk away thinking OMG I hope this person never breeds because we will end up going backwards in regards to evolution. I envision an entire family like turkeys looking up into a rain storm and drowning themselves. My wife hates it when she notices me switch to the Dean Martin persona and that I am pretending to be truly interested and asking questions in order to further my own sick humor at their expense. I do pride myself in not letting these people know that I am being a truly horrible person by encouraging them to continue their moronic ramblings. Though the result is generally that they remember me as a wonderful person who was truly interested in them and generally have adopted another village idiot as a best friend for life!
I do hope I am remembered as a writer. I think all writers have the common dream rattling around in their head. We all write to write a masterpiece of literature that people will be reading and quoting from a hundred years after we are gone. Like Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Victor Hugo, Edgar Allen Poe, or even Thomas Jefferson. To write something that will change the world. Something people make everyday references to that you originally penned! Something everybody is familiar with or at least heard of.
I hope I am remembered as intelligent, a hard a driven worker, a loving husband, and a strong and firm father who if nothing else raised his children up to be intelligent, not afraid to break a sweat, and ready to deal with the real world with old school values. I hope I am remembered as being honest, and true, not one to ever put on airs for somebody else. I have no fashion sense and even my clean work jeans look dirty, my shoes look used hard, my watch is scraped and worn. I am very often completely underestimated, over looked, counted out, but I like that! I love to watch people's expressions change as they get to know me and realize the folly of their snap predetermined judgments about me.
How will you be remembered? What are you like? How do you treat people? What are your accomplishments? Do you have a family?
Think about it! If you're reading this it's not too late to change. Once you're dead your reputation will be set, your acquaintances made, your accomplishments finished. What will they say about you? How will you be remembered?