When we think of leaving a legacy to loved ones, we often want to ensure that our loved ones are financially secure and that every legal “t” is crossed and every “i”is dotted. We assign a power of attorney and have a health care directive signed and inserted into our medical records.
What about an emotional legacy? How do you want your friends, family and community at large to remember you? We might be tuned into a financial legacy, but an emotional legacy holds so much richness for the mind and spirit! Life isn’t only about monetary comforts, but about the values we impart and how these values affect the lives we leave behind.
An emotional legacy is something that is conceptualized and role modeled during a lifetime. As one starts to age, this legacy can hold greater meaning when time seems to race by. It has to do with who we are as people, what we have to offer, what things we hold dear, and what we want others know about us. An emotional legacy has to do with the passing of our deeply rooted and cherished values that we would like to pass on to the next generation.
I remember, as a little girl, walking with my Uncle Aaron. He introduced me to my very first hummingbird. I was in awe watching the tiny bird buzzing around us so close we could almost touch her. To this day, I am reminded of his quiet voice and loving spirit which matched the gentle and curious little bird. One of the values I hope to leave to my loved ones is my love and respect for nature and the hope that my loved ones will follow in my footsteps after witnessing my joy.
I often hear parents talking about the college his or her child goes to, what they do for a living and their success stories, all of which is lovely and a source of pride, but I also hope they are good and purposeful individuals who have a wider lens when it comes to how they interact with and impact their families and community. Are they running on a treadmill, all the while forgetting what is most dear in life?
Creating an emotional legacy begins with living a valuable life. The Biale Rebbe, a beloved rabbi of many who spends a lifetime raising money for widows and orphans, says that our children are worth “billions!”
We might forget that when we leave this planet our emotional legacy lives on, both positively and negatively. We have a choice in the emotional legacy we leave. If we understand that our words and behaviors define who we are, we might be less impulsive reacting with stinging words and actions.
It’s simple and yet so complex. The Lubavitcher Rebbe said, “Think good, do good, and it will be good.”
The next time you walk through the front door, exhausted from the work day, breathe in the “billions” that are right there. Your emotional legacy awaits.
Dr. Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC # 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.