When I think about how I want to be remembered when my life is over, I usually think about how I want to be remembered by the people closest to me. The people who will speak at my funeral or write my obituary: my husband, my siblings, my good friends, my (hopefully grown) children and grandchildren.
But how do I want to be remembered by strangers or mere acquaintances? I already know the answer is somewhat different than the one for those closest to me. And while I’m not looking to be famous, I would like to make an impact in simple yet profound ways to people who may never even meet me or know my name.
What got me thinking about this is someone I never met: the former owner of my home. Let me explain.
When we first walked through our house, I was struck with love—and this was after already looking at around forty houses! It wasn’t that I was “in love” with the house at first sight or because specific features of the house stood out to me (although I did like many of them). Mostly, I was struck by the love that seemed to ooze out of every well-cared for detail of the house. I could see and feel the love, gratitude, and thought that had gone into the home’s lifelong care.
So I was not surprised to find out that, 32 years after the house had been built, it still had its first owner. The original linoleum, while definitely dated with its style, still seemed new thanks to evident daily care. Same with the bathroom tiling. I knew without a doubt that the owner had treated the home with respect and care. Her apparent love made the home even more beautiful to me.
I have since found out that she raised two children in this home and cared for a dying husband years later. I love it when companies still send magazines or advertisements so I can learn more about what made her “her.” I like to imagine how each detail I learn fits into what I know about the love and respect and gratitude she had for her home, and I get an even greater insight into her life.
Neighbors have told me of the time and care she put into her garden and how she always had a home-and-gardening radio playing in the background. I have also heard about her vigilant daily routines to carefully remove life’s remnants and stains from each nook, cranny, and corner.
I am not the best housekeeper by any means, nor do I hold it as my highest priority. But her legacy struck me, and I hope to continue it for my family and hopefully even the next owner, even if we never meet.
Not only do I appreciate the previous owner’s care and diligence because we are now caring for that house, but it has impressed and encouraged me in a few ways. It is promising to me that even little, detailed acts of love can add up and make a difference to someone. Those details that might go unnoticed can reflect love and be apparent to people around us and lay a foundation for and strengthen them, like this house did for me and my family. I also find it hopeful that cherishing something–whether it is a relationship, a memory, or even a space–can be evident in the way we keep and preserve it.
And whether it’s the people closest to me or others whom I have the potential to influence, I would like to leave a legacy of preserving, strengthening, and cherishing what I have been blessed with. That is especially true of those things that lay a foundation for and fortify my closest relationships. I don’t want to only show love in the big things; I also want to show love in the details.
Photo credit: Shashi Bellamkonda/Flickr