Legacy

Recently, my wife’s Uncle Jack passed. He was a Franciscan Monk and the kindest man I think I might have ever met. He was an educator and much of his life was spent helping disadvantaged children. He was funny, always jolly, and loved Chinese food. But now he is gone. Yet, I will remember him the rest of my life for the things he did and also for how he changed the way I see the world around me. He has left me a legacy.

But what do I mean by that? What is a legacy? The dictionary defines it as something passed down from an ancestor or predecessor. Or more widely applied, something left to future generations.

Now, the something that is left behind could be bad or good, but following Uncle Jack’s optimistic view, I am going to talk about how a legacy can impact someone’s life positively. Since this blog is about writing, I am going to focus on the legacy I have received from other writers.

C.S. Lewis helped me to understand good vs. evil and the value of continuing to strive for what was right.  C.S. Lewis also helped me to refine my view of life and death. I am not just talking about his famous Mere Christianity; which taught me that Pride is at the core of most everything we do and is at the root of all evil. This is something I constantly fight against, having the world’s biggest ego. But his book the Great Divorce taught me about hope, even after death, and helped me to settle my faith into a place that I am comfortable with today and additionally taught me how to accept and not judge.

Robert Heinlein, probably one of the greatest and most proficient Science-Fiction writers ever, left me the legacy of reading. As a budding teen I read his book Stranger in a Strange Land and I was hooked. I consumed books like M&Ms and still do almost fifty years later.

I read nearly everything he ever wrote and through his writings he taught me that when my life took turns for the worse (way too often), how to temporarily escape into other worlds where I could rejuvenate to come back and face my difficulties. I found the ability to escape, even for a short time, gave me the room to catch my breath and sometimes put my problems in perspective. I liken it to stepping away from an argument until you have had time to calm down.

“Sorry to hear about your uncle.” A soft voice reached my ears from behind.

“Thanks Willow. He was a good man and he will be sorely missed.” I appreciated her words. Not being very logical, she tends to sweep past the difficult parts of life, especially if it isn’t related to writing.

“I feel for you.”

I could hear the sympathy in her tone, followed by a hesitancy in her next statement.

“I really hate to bring it up, but isn’t this blog about you and your writing?”

Though she was correct, I appreciated the lack of sarcasm normally associated with her remarks.

“I was just getting to that.” It is important to keep some coherency to the Posts 🙂

She seemed relieved and flopped into her chair as Grover, her overgrown dog with droopy eyes and even droopier ears, plopped his head into her lap. Willow stared at me to continue as she rubbed Grover’s large head.

I took a deep breath, letting out what my wife says is my usual and, I am also told, somewhat annoying sigh. “I loved these and many other authors for what they gave me. For the legacy they left.”

She tilted her head with one eye slightly closed.

“What I mean is that beyond the things I already mentioned, right vs wrong and helping me to define my beliefs about life and afterwards, they gave me the desire to write. No, that is wrong. Not a desire, but a passion. And even that is probably too simple a word. I don’t feel like I want to write, but I have to write.”

“So their legacy is that they made you want to write?” She still seemed a little confused.

“Well, yes and no.” I leaned back in my desk chair and tried to think about how to explain it before continuing. “When I would read all these writers, I would get totally lost in their worlds. No matter how I was feeling, I could always sit down with a book and after venturing into it’s wondrous world, I would feel better. Not necessarily happy every time, but I felt like I had gained something from their words. Whether it be insight into some issue, like death, or just entertainment that let me escape from the real world for a short time.”

“So why would that make you want to write?”

Grover snorted as if to emphasize her question.

“Call it envy.” It was really hard to put into words, but I tried. “I wanted to do the same thing for other people that all these writers had done for me. I admit I will probably never write a novel that gives someone new insight into their own lives. But as a legacy I hope that someone will pick up one of my novels to escape from the demands of life, if only for a few moments, and maybe that will be the difference that helps them get through the day.”

A knowing smile spread across her lips. “In the meantime, you love being the center of attention.”

“Yeah,” I responded a little sheepishly.

A smug look crossed Willow’s face. “So C.S. Lewis was right, it all comes down to Pride.”

“Yeah.” After all, I am not Uncle Jack.

In memory of a great man,
Brother John 1934 – 2013

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