By Holly Richardson

holly richardson author pic

I’ve started trying to gather photos into one place online. Digital photos and scanned hard-copy photos going back more than 35 years (in other words, a long-term project), on my phone, on old hard drives, in boxes, bags and lying loose. Even gathering them is a project in itself, then going to scan them means making an appointment at a local family history center, gathering photos and a thumb drive, driving there, scanning, copying, gathering up the photos and documents and heading back home. 

Last week, I started to show my daughter the program I’m using to store those photos (with multiple backups). I told her “I want to do this now, before….” as she interrupted me: “No! Don’t say it!” “Before I die…..,” I finished. Now, I’m not knocking on death’s door, or anything, but she was clearly distressed at the thought of my dying. 

Dying is a fact of life. In fact, it’s the 100% universal experience for all humankind. I have an unfortunate amount of experience of living through loss, but that’s a post for another time. Right now, I’d like to talk about what we leave behind when our time comes. 

Since we generally don’t know when our time is up, it’s not too early to think about the legacy you want to leave behind. Steve Jobs gave a commencement address to graduating students after he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He told them that for 33 years, he asked himself:

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

Steve Jobs

I know that when I think about what I want to leave behind, I know it’s not money (we don’t have any – raising kids is expensive!), and I sure hope it’s not clutter! While photo memories are important, even they are not top of my list.

When I die, I want my family to know that I loved them and that I did my best. I want them to know that my faith was foundational to my literal survival when we went through some very hard things. I want them to remember me when they are praised for their work ethic, when they are civically engaged, when they follow their passions and when they speak up for the marginalized and oppressed. 

When I die, I want my family to know that I loved them and that I did my best.

When my obituary is written, I hope it can honestly be said that I “walked the walk and talked the talk” of living my life in alignment with my values. I hope it says that I loved deeply, that I was fascinated by other people and their stories, that I prioritized service and that I was a life-long learner. I want it to say that I found my voice and used it, that I made a difference and that I left the world a better place. 

And, as long as time allows, I want to write stories my family will want to read, complete with photos. 


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