Maybe it was because yesterday was Mother’s day, or that my Uncle died, or even that I was blessed to be sitting a room with my two sisters, niece and daughter…..all the Legacy of my mother. It all made me contemplate the legacy we leave behind.
My Uncle was 97 years old. He lived through the Great Depression, WWII, man on the moon, the great societal change of his own generation, the illness and death of the love of his life, and the the birth and the death of his own two sons. His legacy had come and gone right in front of him. He was an old man, in hospital with very little left of the life he once lived. My mother is the only who remembers him as young man. Very few will remember his heroic deeds. There is no one to remember his loving ways as a husband, or his duties as a father, his laughter as a friend, his hard work as an employee. He was born, he lived, he died. His memory will be but a grain of sand on the ocean floor, only to be covered up by thousands of other grains of sand as the wave of life rises sand falls with each new day and as time goes by. His life….will soon be forgotten.
I do not say this to be unkind. I say this as a mere understanding that very few of us will have a real legacy. We are just here as an existence….with the hope that we have connected to someone along the way and that the next generation we will be remembered for a moment, before are forgotten.
My mother is the last of her clan; the Clan D’Errico. She is all too aware that her legacy….the memories of her immigrant parents, and six other brother’s and sister are but a generation away to be forgotten. My siblings had the honor to meet most of Clan D’Errico and we will remember their personalities and idiosyncrasies; the things they did that touched our lives. But for our children they will just be names on the back of pictures; lost relatives in the history of our family.
I and one of my sisters were the only ones who knew my Uncle. He lived 3000 miles away and thus the rest of my siblings did not get the chance to meet him. I was blessed with knowing him, his wife, and his family. I will remember him until my dying day. But then that will end his significance on earth. He will be a mere name on a family tree. But his significance is not unique or a reflection of his importance in life. We all will be…just a name. We will have been born, lived, and died. We are merely two generations of a legacy, until our personality, our facial expressions, our touch, the sound of our voice is no longer a memory to anyone. Then our legacy is gone. Poof! Who we struggled to be, what we worked hard to accomplish will be nothing worth anyone’s time, thought or memory.
So, you ask how this has anything to do with writing….
Books, art, music are all very significant legacies for humanity. They help us stay connected to the past and to our history of who lived before us, how and why. But mostly, it is the big, “important” people and things that get remembered: the pharaohs and kings, the monuments, Beethoven’s Fifth. What about the average person who lived, breathed, worked and died. What is their legacy…like my Uncle?
I have a line in my first novel, Finding Jane: “Books connect us to those that lived long before us giving us a one on one perspective of individuals, not just world history. They can bring one small person to life before us, not just great heroes. It makes the everyday person have significance.”
Characters in a book do give everyday people a legacy. There are stories told of all sorts of people, small and big; diverse and ordinary. They remind us of the individuals who lived and had purpose. They make us remember that we are human and connected from generation to generation, event to event, life to life and death to death. That is what I love about writing. It brings to life a person, any person, to have some meaning and a legacy. All the characters that exist in books are remnants of people we have met, have known, or just a little piece of the author. They are elements of our humanity that will live on from one generation to the next, creating a legacy of who we were, what we did and why we were important…even if I myself am not remembered.