Legacy: How Do You Want to be Remembered?

One thing I’ve learned in life is to never take anything or anyone for granted. I feel driven to find some way to infuse meaning into every day…to make the most out of every moment. I have trouble connecting with a task, job, or activity that doesn’t add deep value to life. 

I suppose you could attribute this to my personality type. As an INFJ the quest for deep meaning is a lifelong core value — we’re not satisfied with surface-level jobs, relationships, or projects — we crave depth in all areas of life. 

However, it’s glaringly apparent that this unquenchable drive for purpose and depth is not exclusive to my own journey. It seems I can’t turn a corner without running into a conversation about life purpose.

Everyone wants to make an impact, change the world, do something transformative…be remembered for leaving a beautiful legacy…

What a True Legacy Looks Like

My grandmother recently passed away at nearly 86 years of age. Towards the end she couldn’t always remember what year it was or which grandchild belonged to whom, but even in her passing I can honestly say she left me with a profound and priceless lesson.

Angela Russo and her Grandmother playing Racko in Florida

As my family gathered together last weekend in remembrance of my dear grandmother, we bonded in tears of sorrow and laughter. My grandmother was a truly remarkable woman. She had her quirks and faults like anyone else God bless her, but the positives far outweighed them all. 

In the course of her life she had two wonderful marriages, six children, over a dozen grandchildren, and countless “children of her heart.”

My grandmother left a legacy of love. As I listened to the beautiful eulogy commemorating the depths of my grandmother’s caring and kindness, I was overwhelmed by a realization of the powerful legacy she left us all with.

There were three precious gifts that my grandmother left with us that struck me most profoundly.

  1. Love the wounded the most
  2. Do the last loving thing
  3. There’s always room for one more

Love the Wounded the Most

Grandma was a tiny woman, measuring below five feet, but she managed to stand tall and mighty in the strength of her love. She was a stubborn ambassador of God’s love and warrior for truth. Nothing could keep her from reaching out to bluntly speak life to a friend or family member in need…whether or not they truly wanted to hear it! She was always tenaciously fighting behind the scenes for the emotional and spiritual welfare of her loved ones. 

Proverbial musing by Angela Russo about how the small actions in the present moment can have a profound impact with a teal background and white frame.

Her heart was always in the right place. From a young age I always heard of “Grandma’s favorite.” It was her tradition to make whichever child or grandchild was struggling the most her “favorite.” Over the decades that I enjoyed with her, we have all taken turns being her favorite time and again. Her compassion was boundless and her caring unmatched. Without a doubt, when I was in a dark place, I knew that I could count on Grandma to be armed and ready to lavish her time, prayers, and words of wisdom to my troubled soul. 

Do the Last Loving Thing

This message is truly astounding. In a digital secular world of materialism, fleeting relationships, false love, fake friends, ghosting, and selfishness, she advocated loving service in all circumstances. No matter what relational problem anyone brought to her in friendship, family, or romance, she always advised one crucial thing:

Do the last loving thing.

My grandmother understood a deep truth: Life is about relationships. The only thing we get to take with us when we leave this world are the relationships we form. No matter what anyone has said or done to us, she taught us to always ensure that our last action is a loving one.  

Even if the relationship ends and the person walks away, we are to be ambassadors of love to the end. We embrace with love, and release with loveand always trust that God, the source of all love, is taking care of us all.

There’s Always Room for One More

Overhead view of a table set for dinner for seven with appetizers laid out.

One of the most impactful things my grandmother imparted to us all was the concept of always room for one more.” She was a very inclusive, loving Italian woman. Anyone who walked through her door was treated as a beloved member of the family. After the funeral mass was over, the weekend overflowed with countless stories of how she always had a seat at the table for an unexpected guest.

Every one of her children has integrated this into their unspoken household rules. Holidays and family gatherings are not exclusive to blood relatives. There’s always another bed for a weary head, another plate at dinner, another plot at the campsite, another seat at the gaming table. 

Living in Florida for 18 years far from the big fat Italian gatherings, I found that we never had an empty table for Thanksgiving, Christmas New Years or Easter. Whenever a neighbor or community member didn’t have anyone to share the holiday with, they were immediately invited to join us. As a result I have grown up with countless adopted grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters crowding into our home to share life and break bread together.

A Legacy of Love

There is an unfortunate misconception among Millennials that grandiose acts are required to change the world or even to make a valuable impact. My grandmother did not have a high-powered career. She was not extravagantly wealthy or powerful by the standards of this world. 

Poem by Angela Russo with blue sky and white clouds in the background. 

As I looked around the church last Saturday at the 200 friends and family members who showed up to honor my grandmother, her influence was undeniable. She left a powerful legacy well worth emulating…the lives touched by the depths of her generosity, empathy, compassion, and unconditional love.

The truth is, we change the world one heart to heart interaction at a time.

I was blessed to know, love, and learn from grandmother. In her passing, I learned what it looks like to live with purpose and what it truly means to leave a legacy. 

Join the conversation: What kind of legacy do you hope to be known for?

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed these words, please share this so that it may touch the hearts of those who need to hear it.

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