What it means to leave a legacy? What it means to grieve and hold on to whatever you can to process/survive?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word LEGACY as 1. Money or other personal property gifted by a will after someone passes and/or 2. Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor. I am one to believe the word, LEGACY, is best defined by that second definition and the synonym: HERITAGE. In another description from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, they note the basic meaning of LEGACY is the following:
“A legacy is a gift of money or other personal property that's granted by the terms of a will—often a substantial gift that needs to be properly managed. But the word is used much more broadly as well. So, for instance, much of Western civilization—law, philosophy, aesthetics— could be called the undying legacy of ancient Greece. And the rights and opportunities that women enjoy today are partly the legacy of the early suffragists and feminists.” -Merriam-Webster dictionary
I think is the dichotomy of the word LEGACY that causes so much turmoil when someone leaves this world and us behind. Which definition you choose can define how you choose to live your life. Do you choose money and physical objects? Do you choose the non-tangible heritage and lessons left behind? What means MORE to you when someone dies. We were fortunate to have my cousin ask a series of questions to my grandfather before he passed away. He went through funny stories of meeting the queen of England and Ava Gardner. The best part of these questions is when he asked Pap what words of wisdom to live by for his grandchildren. He responded with to make enough money to live on but to be happy. Travel the world. I choose to use definition number two because that pure definition was Walter Larch. He believed in making a difference, community, and most of all FAMILY.
Yes, I want to have some of my childhood photos to have a tangible memory of those who have left me.
Yes, I am grieving the loss of my childhood home harder then I ever though imaginable.
Yes, I cherish my grandmother’s rings she gave me that I wear on a regular basis.
Yes, I cherish my Pap’s bowling shirt I kept from a Halloween costume many moons ago.
There are moments where these tangible items give us a little sense of our loved ones are still here. Physical touch of an item gives security. I understand the want for these items to keep them close in our hearts. The only time I can not fathom the first definition is when it comes to just MONEY. Money is not a tangible representation of our loved ones. There is a sense of greed and entitlement to the first definition of, LEGACY.
I have been grieving for almost a full month since my grandfather left this world in August. It has been absolutely gut wrenching and difficult for me to operate as a person, yet alone work two jobs. In this time frame, we have had to clean out my childhood home since my grandfather had a reverse mortgage. (A reverse mortgage allows older homeowners to borrow from the equity on their home without making monthly payments on the loan amount, then the house goes to the bank 30 days after the homeowner passes away.) As most people know, grief is not linear by any means. Since we had to pack up the house, I have been grieving hard for my grandfather, grandmother, my mother, and my sense of “home”. I miss them and it seriously hurts. I have moments where I just have a pit in my stomach. I have panic attacks regularly to the point where I have thrown up all because I saw someone with a life alert button around their neck. (My grandfather loved his a little too much). I cry when I get into my car because I used to call my grandmother and grandfather when I was driving. It hurts.
Most people do not think of the full body experience of grieving the loss of a loved one. Yes, it affects mental health but there are physical moments where everything is pretty intense. I have lost a lot of loved ones in my life, but this time it is just different. I have the depression and overall sadness but I truly HURT in a way I have never felt before. Good Therapy Blog writes a pretty great description of the physical signs of grief which you can find here
1. HEART PROBLEMS
2. LOWERED IMMUNITY
3. BODY ACHES AND PAINS
4. DIGESTIVE ISSUES
5. UNHEALTHY COPING MECHANISMS
6. SLEEP PROBLEMS AND FATIGUE
Yesterday, was one of those days where I had every intention on being super productive. Unfortunately, I was hit with so much grief, anxiety, and pain that I just sat and watched a free form tv sitcom for hours. When my husband got home, he wanted to know why I was in such a distraught mood. That is the thing with grief and losing someone, we hold on to things to keep that person alive in our hearts and minds. For me, my Pap’s LEGACY is something I want to hold so dear to my heart. It is what he left for us to continue with his passing. My grandfather did everything he could for anyone who needed help. He believed in the sense of community and he believed in his family. During the last 30 days, there have been moments of those who have put monetary items over family. The idea of greed being over my grandfather’s legacy literally sent me reeling into one of those physically and mentally draining spirals.
So that brings me back to LEGACY. My grandfather left his behind and it is our job to run with it and cherish his memories. I will forever see his smile as he was intentionally doing something to embarrass or annoy me. I will forever think of my Yiayia’s touch as she tried to console me on my darker days. I will remember my mother’s pride when it comes to serving the community in charitable organizations. I will remember their love, lessons, and my memories with them as I go about each day without them. I want to share what I learned from them with the world one lesson at a time. That being said, remember what your loved ones wanted above all else. Think of their true wishes when it comes to the items they have left behind.