Rule #15- Build a Legacy
” The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit”, Nelson Henderson
I had an amazing experience this past week witnessing the wake and funeral of my first cousin Dee Vaughn. The experience has made me reflect on the role of one’s legacy should have in the way you live your life, and she inspired this rule.
As context I have to first say I have not been a very involved cousin or relative to my extended family. First because I was a very quirky kid, chubby and awkward, I never really seem to connect well with others in my family as a child. And second because I made bad choices in my first marriage that lead to me being distant from not only my extended family but my own parents. This was not the fault of my ex-wife, but rather the failure of myself to act to develop and protect these important relationships regardless of my marriage. I regret these lost years with my family, and particularly because I know that my Mother who passed away in 2000 would have wanted them nurtured and developed.
Fortunately though the love and support of Bobbi I was able to re-build a deep relationship with my father and build strong relationships with friends and her family. It was through her teaching me how to connect in a more present way and I have been able to build what I have failed at in other aspects of my life.
Bobbi as you all know is not a shy person, and is not a person you can push aside ( nobody puts Baby or Bobbi in the corner). It is her steadfast belief that family is most important that helped me begin to heal some the things I had damaged in my life. I still have much to do, but know that change is possible. Bobbi has taught me this through her unconditional love.
So, because of all this I have failed to remain close to my Mom’s family despite having a real admiration for the love the that Mulligan clan have shown each other over the years. Sadly, in the hectic days of raising six kids one of the few times I have been able to check in and connect with my family is during funerals. It is through these passings I see glimpses of the lives my relatives have lead, I see their legacy.
Dee did it the right way.
Never of woman of significant financial means, she connected with thousands of people through everyday interactions. She made herself a positive force through simply remaining positive. Accepting and caring, she touched people in real ways that most of us don’t experience- it makes the encounters with people like Dee exceptional.
In understanding her legacy it is one of love and acceptance- her priorities to her family, her friends and the extended Bonner family were clear. There was no confusing dueling roles, her focus was clear and consistent. Rarely do you find a person whom was so consistently focused in their commitments. She has a legacy of purpose.
As I watch the many hundreds of people pay their respects I saw clearly the lesson she was still teaching us. The lesson that a life must be built through each and every interaction with others, and the it is through these interactions we will define ourselves.
I wish I had known Dee better, because I think I would have been a better man for having done so. But she gave me a gift with her passing of insight that I can share with you my children.
The interactions with others matters, that family matters and that consistent purpose matters. In the end our lives will be defined by how we treat others much more than what we accumulate or accomplish.
We have been a family that accumulates well- we have degrees, businesses and wealth. Our family knows how to build success in many things. But through the accumulations I want to make sure you remember our legacy will be about how we teach others to interact by example. The things will fade, how we teach others to interact will continue..
I chose the quote, ” The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit”, because I thought it defined what is a legacy. It isn’t about the shade we build for ourselves but about the shade we leave for others. And your seeds of these trees are how we interact with each other.
Thank you Dee for that important lesson and rule. You will be missed but your legacy never forgotten.