Legacy. The only time we seem to think of this word, is when we are faced with death; when we are faced with someone who has passed. We mourn. We cry. We bury the dead, and with them, little trinkets of the life we knew them with. We wear black clothing. We gather and cry a bit more.  We start recalling the memories of our friend or family member, remembering fondly how they smiled, or how they treated others. This becomes their legacy. They become known for the things that were a part of them.

My friend Elizabeth died, and she left behind a legacy. She left behind a legacy of poetry, of moving beyond the struggle, of smiles and acceptance of others. This was her legacy, for these are the things that made up who she was. She was this spitfire girl, who always smiled, had an incredible laugh, and made you feel as though you were the most incredible artist in the world. This was my friend Elizabeth.

We think then, of legacy. We question ourselves, wondering: what sort of legacy will I leave to my children? We think that having a legacy is something we have to work towards. Listen, either way you are going to have a legacy. You will. You will be known for the things that make up who you are. This is just a matter of fact, not something you need to work towards. Leaving a legacy is something we all do.

Life, it gets to you sometimes. When you have a troubled past, the last thing you want to do is drudge it back up. A lot of times, we just want to move past it, and not think about it. We want to put the past behind us, and never speak of that painful moment again, in fear of hurting again; in fear of the tears. We run from the tears, from the pain and anguish we once felt. But the thing is, you SHOULD be able to talk about it. You should be able to speak of it, write about it, and once in a while, cry about it. It’s okay to cry sometimes.

The way you process this pain becomes your legacy. This becomes your message to the world. I do not like to mention my childhood much to anyone at all, but suffice to say that I understand the tears that come when you are a child. I understand being damaged and being hurt. I understand what it is to fear a person who is meant to be a role model. These things are horrible feelings for a child. The experiences leave you jaded, confused and depressed as a child. But my legacy, was and is my poetry.

I started writing when I was just about 9 or 10. For me, writing became more than just something I did, to choke back the tears. My poetry became a lover to me. It became my way of life, the thing I turned to for good times and bad. This became my legacy. Would I have written, had I not felt the tears and pain I did as a child? Who knows. What I do know, is that pain helped me create my legacy. It became a part of my legacy. I can talk about it now. I can talk about it, and not feel pain.

I hadn’t written about it in a long while. I didn’t want to air my dirty laundry, I suppose. But in thinking of my friend’s death, I realized that my pain is what has evolved me into the person that I am today; that without the two moments in my history that created pain in my heart, without those two moments, I would not be the artist I am today. And so, my pain created a legacy in me.

 

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These are some Artist Trading Cards I made a while back. They are actually regular playing cards that I gessoed, and painted with watercolors. Over them, there is yarn that has also been painted, and then lines from a very old poem.

Art and poetry sometimes feed each other, at least for me anyway.

I see now, that we all create legacies for ourselves with the life we live. We can create a life of purpose by being the best parents we can be, and moving beyond pain through the creative process, by being responsible with our money and providing a good future for our family, or we can choose to sink into selfishness and think only of ourselves, our problems, or what we want. True success doesn’t mean that you have a ton of money, but a ton of love. I am blessed to have many people around me who truly understand the word love on a family and friendship level. These days, with the hurry of life and recession, few understand this. But I do. And my loved ones do.

Leave behind a positive legacy. Live a positive life. You only have one.