One thing that I often keep in mind is my funeral. That might sound funny or depressing but it helps me to live each day fully. I imagine what people might say, the pictures that will be displayed, and how I will be remembered. Then, I compare that to how I would ideally want things to be on that day. Realizing this encourages recovery and caring for others as well as myself.
The Weekly Writing Challenge at The Daily Post concerns traces that are left behind after our lives. This topic fits perfectly with my thoughts about funerals. Also, reading about this weekly challenge made me realize something strange; although I often think about how my funeral, I rarely articulate how I want it to look. Likewise, my thoughts often center on how I do not want to be remembered or how to become a better person. Thus, I saw this challenge as a great opportunity to stretch myself by imaging the ideal traces and legacy I will leave behind.
Part of me longs for a legacy that shines boldly so no one can ignore it. Helping to change the world, speaking to crowds of millions, winning awards for helping others – this is what I dream of sometimes.
And yet, I know that this might not happen. Perhaps I will only touch a few people. Perhaps my family will need to care for small children while I work part-time writing. Perhaps my health problems will cause me to die early. There are so many things that could easily hold me back from being a momentous public figure fighting for the rights of others.
Besides, fame does not come to a person simply through hard work. Choosing to be celebrated and well-known results partly from your own efforts but also from the interest of others. I cannot make myself famous alone even if I wanted to do so. Do I really want that anyway? No, that is not my goal in life. Although I want to reach as many people as possible to help them, my mission is deeper than that.
So what traces do I want to leave behind? How can I help others even if I never become popular or respected? Will anyone heed my voice or find comfort in my words of hope if I am an ordinary person?
Being a concrete thinker because of my Aspergers, I decided to make a list of actual traces that I hope will be left behind after I am gone. Some of them concern my diagnoses while others involve hobbies, passions, and dreams. If you have never thought of your funeral and legacy before, maybe consider making a list like this one. It does not need to be depressing; this practice can actually be very hopeful and inspiring.
- A recipe box full of exotic and delicious recipes that I am no longer afraid to eat and make for people. Other people will have little recipe cards with my name in the corner to carry this trace even further from my home.
- Several rosebushes planted around my grave and in the homes of my friends. Roses have always been a symbol of beauty, life, and myself to my family and friends.
- The scar-free arms of girls and boys I have reach out to after they have struggled with self-harm. Also, those I have helped to love the person that they see in the mirror each day.
- Cat hair on my furniture that is not messy but cozy and inviting.
- At least one published book and several articles, poems, stories, and other works as well.
- My undergraduate, Masters, and Doctorate diplomas framed and hung up.
- The first real valentine I ever received from a significant other stashed in my collection of cards proving that my PTSD no longer holds me back from growing up.
- Many pictures of me with others, smiling with true joy and the darkness absent from my eyes.
- A closet packed with presents for family, friends, and donations as well as a car stocked with water bottles, fruit, blankets, and granola bars to give to any homeless person on the street.
- The tears in the eyes of those at my funeral soon wiped away while laughing about memories of me. These same eyes also glistening with resolve to continue to carry out my mission.