Column: What’s your legacy?


Commentary by Lorene Burkhart

Have you ever thought about writing your own obituary? The beginning part is easy – when, where, who. It’s the middle part that becomes tricky. Your checklist might be college, degree, fraternal organization, occupation, then it becomes more difficult.

How do you want to be remembered? Oftentimes good works are mentioned – service on boards, service clubs, volunteering. Sometimes hobbies are mentioned – gardening, homemaking skills, woodworking, etc. Relationships are sometimes mentioned, too, missed by family and friends.

I’ll admit I’m an avid reader of obituaries. Not because I’m fascinated with death but because I’m fascinated with how lives are lived. I form a picture in my mind of that person – successful, humble, loving – the words tell the story.

When I recently read the obituary of an old high school classmate whom I had not seen for years, I was pleased to read about his large family, his many accomplishments and his loyalty to his church and his community. We grew up in the same rural area and families knew each other. When I read the names of his siblings, I recalled those I had known.

As we live our lives, we are more focused on the process and not on the end report. Rabbi Daniel Cohen, author of “What Will They Say When You Are Gone?” notes that we’re just trying to stay afloat.

In a recent news article about the generosity of Hoosiers, it was noted that last year more than $280 million was donated by only about 30 individuals. Now that’s a legacy! Having your name on a building or a school or a specific research project is one way to ensure your legacy.

Most of us aren’t in that category, so we’ll settle for lasting memories of lives well-lived.