When a great man dies, for years the light he leaves behind him, lies on the paths of men.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.
— Mahatma Gandhi
In the end, is there anything more important than how people remember us? Once this life is complete, and we depart this planet, all we truly leave behind are memories in the hearts, minds, and souls of others.
And because this lasting memory is a simple and single impression, it is indeed a reflection of our essence—our soul at the center of our existence. Thus our legacy simply boils down to a reflection of the kind of person you created by how you conducted your life and treated others.
You, yourself go about erecting your own epitaph in every word and interaction: moment-to-moment, day-to-day, and year-to-year. Built up and reflected in the memories and words of your friends, family, and colleagues, that memory was your creation and you can affect it either way. Your story is fully written and composed by you.
So what will be your epitaph? When you look at the end of your life and consider how you want it to look, do you see a joyous celebration of the person you were? Are the decisions you’ve made and the way you live your life consistent with such an outcome?
Did you give your heart and soul to life and to others? Did you give others your time? Did you listen and give others praise and thanks? Were you compassionate, gave more than you took, and lived humbly and gracefully? Did you teach and inspire others? Were you patient when others were not, and a shining beacon of inspiration and love? Will others remember you as a good and kind soul that tried to do his or her best, to do the right thing?
Or were you always looking out for number 1 and needing to win every point and conversation? Always trying to appear important, better, smarter, richer, and more relevant while trying to tear others down? Do people consider you as mean, aggressive, cruel, or overly selfish?
Be brave enough to face it if it is so, and even braver to make a change if one is necessary.
Only time will tell.