Column | What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

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It's time to think about the legacy we want to live behind.  Photo: Misha Jordaan
It's time to think about the legacy we want to live behind. Photo: Misha Jordaan

It’s only the first month of the year and we’ve already lost so many people, not just to the dreaded Covid-19 virus. We’ve spent weeks typing out messages of condolences to friends and loved ones as they bury their family members.

It just seems like it’s never ending.

We’ve seen South African celebs shuttered as their colleagues die one after the other.

And we watched the president emotionally say farewell to a long-time friend and colleague Jackson Mthembu. We saw the medical fraternity in mourning after they lost five of their own in a helicopter accident.  

The ones we know about are the ones we read about but I’m sure there’s hundreds of people who have died this year that had plans, that had goals and were sure they were going to have the time.

Read more | Two South Africans share how they have dealt with grief during the pandemic

If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything, it is that we don’t have the time.

Any day could be our last in this world. So even if you don’t want to think about your death, it might be time to start thinking about what kind of legacy do you want to leave?

In every suburb, township and rural areas, there’s always that one person who’s known as a legend. Someone who’s known for either being the best at soccer, boxing, acting, at story telling, at lying or even at drinking. These people will be remembered not just by their families but the entire community should they pass.  

Leaving a legacy is not about the kind of job you do, where you went to school, how many cars you have or what kind of house you own.

It’s about the impact you’ve made on those around you.

Listening to South Africans mourn Ntate Jonas Gwangwa, Mama Sibongile Khumalo, Lindiwe Ndlovu, the health care workers in died in a helicopter crash and Jackson Mthembu, among others, has been a revelation.

These are people who left indelible marks on anyone they came across and whether it was musically or just as an icon, they have each been praised for being role models in their own way.

Read more | The lesson 2020 has taught me

Hearing battle-weary South Africans praise Jackson as ‘decent’, high praise indeed for a politician, was eye-opening.

It’s time to start thinking about what you want people to say when they hear news of your death. Will they remember you as a friend who celebrated each milestone they achieved without jealousy? As a brother who was always selfless and put others first?

Will they fondly remember you as a colleague who made the best jokes?

Will they be comforted by the fact that you lived your life to the fullest without every doing anyone wrong? Will they talk about how much good you did for your family and your community or your country?

Will the conversations include anecdotes of how your presence affected strangers and made people want to be better?

When your children or grandchildren search for your name one day, what will come up?

Were you decent? Let’s start working thinking about what legacy we want to leave now, so that we can start working towards it.

There’s no time.

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