What comes to mind when you think about the word legacy? Maybe the money someone leaves behind, a prominent family name that grows stronger with generations, or the impact a person leaves once they are gone.

You know the one thing all of those thoughts have in common? Death.

It’s only in recent years have I questioned how we as a society, a community, and even sometimes a family, wait until someone is gone from our life to celebrate or honor them.

I am just as guilty as the next person of not taking moments to tell someone how much I admire them, what they have taught me, the impact they have made on me, and more importantly how much I love them.

I just lost my grandmother earlier this month.

Geraldine Massie, or Ma to me, was a wife for 70 years, a mother, and a grandmother to three generations.

She was the first person to instill in me the importance of faith. Her love for the Lord was something she wasn’t afraid to share. She was the glue that held our family together.

I contribute my strength to love through the hard times from her. In fact, a lot of who I am is because of her example. But I don’t know that I shared that with her enough before she died.

Why does it often feel awkward or uncomfortable to tell someone what they mean to us? What if we were to celebrate them when they could know their impact on this world...before they leave it?

When a person dies, the mark the individual left on the world represents that individual’s legacy. It is about the richness of the individual’s life, including what that person accomplished and the impact he or she had on people and places.

Ultimately, the story of a person’s life reflects the individual’s legacy.

Why isn’t there such a thing as a pre-legacy celebration? A life celebration before the end.

Have you ever wondered what you’re doing right now to contribute to your own legacy? Have you ever written your own obituary or thought about the people who would attend your funeral and how they would remember you?

When you think about legacies of your own or of other people, here is what you should be doing a better job of:

● Celebrating people who have made an impact on your life with them while you can.

● Build a foundation of love for others in your everyday life. Those are people who will want to be there to love you in your last moments.

● Tell your family and friends you love them often.

● Surround yourself with people who will want to be there to hold your hand when you take your last breath.

● When you want to pray with someone, tell someone how much you care, show someone your love for them — DO IT! Don’t wait, don’t hold back. People in our lives need to feel your love and care for them daily.

And what about you? What legacy are you leaving behind? Are your actions today building the legacy you want to leave when you are long gone?

Professionally, I work every day at Puzzle Pieces hoping to create a legacy that my community is proud of. I want my work to affect change for those with disabilities.

The long hours and stress of leading an organization are worth it when one of our clients lands her first job, or gets his own apartment. The ripple effect of those successes are what will change our community to be more inclusive of all abilities.

Personally, I hope that my family — especially my sons — see that their mom loves her work and that her job has a bigger purpose. Yes, I may work more than other moms, and yes, I have to bring work home with me.

But what I am doing will leave a legacy that I hope they are proud of.

I challenge you to not only recognize the legacy of those that you love, that are impacting your life right now, but also to start living each day as if you are building your own legacy.

Amanda Owen is the founder and executive director of Puzzle Pieces. Follow Amanda’s Blog and podcast Pieces of Me: Perspectives on Inclusion and Acceptance, www.piecesofme.org.

Amanda Owen is the founder and executive director of Puzzle Pieces. Follow Amanda’s Blog and podcast Pieces of Me: Perspectives on Inclusion and Acceptance, www.piecesofme.org

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