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Your Legacy (or “If You Think You Know What You’ll be Remembered For, Guess Again”)

My friend’s cousin, Dave, passed back into spirit a little over a year ago after having a massive heart attack. He was in his early 40s and, by all appearances, seemed to be in good health up to that point. Because no one saw it coming, and he was alone when it happened, his death was considered tragic and premature. Dave’s not bitter about his abrupt passing, though; he gets that it was his time. He actually has a great – and very dry – sense of humor about life on both sides, and he likes to talk about his experiences.

Something to know about me: Clairaudience – intuitive hearing – is my strong suit. My earliest memories of contact with the Folks Upstairs was hearing them. Over time, the other “clairs” came into play, but hearing is still my strongest. So it’s always a treat for me to meet articulate people in spirit like Dave who like to chat it up.

The first time we talked, Dave told his cousin she’d surprised by what she’ll be remembered for. He was laughing when he said it. I’ve heard similar statements from many people in spirit, so I asked Dave if he’d be open to talking more about that for my blog. He enthusiastically agreed, and what follows is what Dave shared with me. It’s been edited for brevity – I got his okay for that – but is otherwise in his words, as I received them. Here goes:

“The lasting impression I made on people was a big surprise. Definitely. It was good, and I’m glad about that, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be. So many people worry about how others see them so they put a lot of thought into what they say and do, what they put in print… that kind of stuff. There’s this image they want to put forward, right? Well, I found out it doesn’t quite work that way.

“When they tried to figure out what to say for the newspaper write up and the funeral, that’s where I started to really see the differences between how they saw me and how I saw myself. It was very hard for everybody – and me. Very emotional. But it was also fascinating. This was really the first time I’d heard people talk that candidly about me.

“Like, I remember my sister said, ‘Blue was his favorite color,’ so they decided to bury me in a blue dress shirt and have blue flowers at the funeral. I was always a huge Penn State fan and they mentioned that at the funeral, too. I think that’s why they thought blue was my favorite color, but I just wore blue a lot because girls said it made my eyes look pretty. My favorite color’s actually green. Honestly, I was fine with all the arrangements but I just didn’t see myself as a blue kind of person.

“I was HUGE music fan – especially Zepplin when I was in high school – but that never really came up. I went to so many concerts in my teens and twenties and I had hundreds of CDs. I didn’t have that much else in my apartment, really. So I thought I’d be remembered for loving music, but no one really said anything about that, and that surprised me.

“Everybody’s favorite stories are when you screwed up. You know, all those things you try to avoid doing so people won’t think you’re stupid or something. Well, you’ll find out those are the things they love about you, they endear you to them. So get used to that. If you do anything really, really dumb, I guarantee you it’ll get retold over and over and over again.”

Side note: This summer another person in spirit told me he used to ride his bike a lot because gas was so expensive. He told me he wasn’t in great shape, and wasn’t trying to make some kind of political or environmental statement; he was just trying to save money. Well a friend stood up at the funeral to tell everyone how he always rode his bike and she admired how committed he was to doing his bit for the environment. And as a tribute and loving gesture, she even put his water bottle in his coffin. He says now everybody kind of sees him as the Environmentally Conscious Cyclist and that just cracks him up because he never saw himself that way. “So I have a water bottle to keep my body company for all of eternity. That just makes me smile every time I think about it.”

Anyway, back to Dave. I asked him if he had any other advice he wanted to share on this topic:

“Don’t worry too much about creating some kind of official image as you go through your life. Just enjoy it and try to be a nice person. People will form their own images of you, anyway. We impact so many people without even knowing it. I guarantee you that. It really is kind of like that movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Enjoy the ripples you make and don’t take yourself, or your image, too seriously. And be grateful they WANT to remember you, even if it feels a little off the mark.”