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  • Elaine Fletcher Chapman

Quest2017-Legacy

How can you shift your focus from “keeping busy” to “leaving a legacy”? #Legacy

Normally on a Wednesday I begin with a yoga class. Today I can’t face the intimacy of that class and will be on my mat alone at home. My husband is a Methodist minister. Part of his work is to offer care to the sick and dying. And then perform the services. Funerals are a specialty or as they say in church language, one of his gifts. Since we have been married, I have learned to attend funerals and appreciate the art and arc of a funeral.

The last few days have been extremely difficult because the husband of one of his small staff had a massive heart attack at the age of 42, leaving his wife and three small children. The family was moving in a matter of days. They just bought a new house. When the call came, we were on our way to the grocery store. We drove to their house. Raw grief. Shock. Horror as each child was brought home from school and told the news. We left the house briefly, bought dinner and returned. On our way home again,we asked ourselves is joy possible? And when there is a death it brings up other deaths and other first calls made to announce a passing: I remember so clearly calling my grown children to tell them of their father’s sudden death. We are never prepared.

Legacy? What we leave behind?  A mark? A gift? Holding space once our physical presence disappears? How do we go about our every day with purpose so that how we conduct our lives has meaning? Immediately I think of my boxes of poems, published and un- published, collected and uncollected as Jason Shinder used to say.  The unpublished books. I am reminded of Terry Tempest Williams whose mother left her journals, all blank. The gift of even the unspoken. So that is the most obvious answer of legacy, my written words. The seriousness of which I practice writing those words. Connection and communication. In conversation. In dialogue. The power of good thinking.

But there is another more subtle legacy. Undefined. Not magical but mystical. Not the power of presence, but the perfume that lingers afterwards like in meditation. Not quite essence. Not memory but felt experience, often unnamed. A scent. Air stirred in the passing. You know what I mean. A sea shell. A red hawk feather from New Mexico saved in an unmarked envelope. A random gift given to a clerk in the store on Market Street. No names exchanged. An omen. A festival of music in Michigan. A waving of a wand made of driftwood. Essential oil placed on a forehead. A picture of the Thanksgiving pie captured on instant camera. The pie itself. The feel of the dough.That transfer from one generation to another. The secret ingredient, that makes it yours. A grandmother’s recipe for dark fruit cake. The crossing of the Bay. Sea spray. Sea salt. A history of walking the labyrinth at Grace or the Seminary. A quota of hugs. Hikes among redwoods, eucalyptus. Footfalls on a trail. Foot prints left behind. Breathe in crisp air. Take a deep breath. Hold that breath. Let the perfume enter your body.

#legacyquest2017

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