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Legacy: A Word to Live By

The Sixth Word to live by

In the past week we’ve blogged about the six words I strive to live by.
Here are the previous ones: compassion/passion, integrity, resolve, gratitude, , and relationships.

My final word, and today’s subject is Legacy.

Legacy is all about where you end up at.
Legacy is about how you’ll be remembered.
Anyone can start well.
It’s finishing well that cements a person’s legacy.

I remember well Sunday September 17, 1967. We rushed home from church and turned on the television to see the first regular season NFL game of the New Orleans Saints. I sat between my friends Paul and Ritchie Young.

There was a huge crowd on hand (80,879 fans) in Tulane Stadium as the Los Angeles Rams kicked off to the Saints.

The kickoff went to rookie RB John Gilliam at the six yard line. Gilliam broke through a crowd of Rams and emerged 94 yards later in the end zone. The stadium went wild and so did we.

First play in Saints history.
First touchdown for our new team.

We turned to each other in excitement, exchanging high fives (or however we celebrated in 1967) yelling, “Hey, we’ve got ourselves a team!”

However, the Saints lost the game 27-13. They did win 3 of their games in that inaugural season, but it wasn’t until twenty seasons later that they posted their first winning season.

Since that day in 1967, the Saints have lost 381 more games (compared to 264 wins.)
They’ve kicked off 41 seasons since 1967 and had only eight winning seasons.

I’m not picking on my hometown team. They’re Louisiana’s team. Our New Orleans Saints.

However, they are a good example of starting well… and finishing poorly.

Being a middle-aged man who knows he has lived over half his life, legacy stays on my mind more these days.

I believe my own greatest legacy will be the three sons DeDe and I have raised, as well as the three grandsons they are raising (with hopefully more to come with a granddaughter thrown in.)

Because these grandchildren are at a malleable age, I want to spend my time, love, and money in instilling a positive and Godly legacy in their lives.

Legacy is not about buildings or titles.
Real legacy has little to do with fame, money, or possessions.
If that is all a person is remembered for, I wonder about their priorities during the time they sucked air on this earth.

I’ve picked on the Saints, and now I’ll use another New Orleans institution as an example.

Al Copeland rose to fame as the owner of Popeye’s Fried Chicken as well as other restaurant chains. There’s no doubt in my mind that Popeyes makes the best store bought fried chicken anywhere. Love Dat chicken from Popeyes.

When Al Copeland died on Easter Sunday 2008, an elaborate wake, funeral, and burial ensued.

It’s his burial at Lake Lawn Cemetery that caught my attention. The Times Picayune (March 31, 2008) commented:

“Copeland, who became known for extravagant Christmas displays, speedboats, sports cars, spectacular weddings and messy divorces, was being buried in the family mausoleum in Metairie Cemetery.”

At the mausoleum where he was buried, all of Al Copeland’s “toys” were lined up. Sports cars, motorcycles, race cars, and his large speedboat.

Evidently, those were his wishes.
It’s his right to set his own legacy, but it makes me wonder.

I compare it to another legacy I’ve familiar with. I share it only because it affected me so deeply.
My dad passed away in April 2003. On the night of his wake, I stood beside his casket for four solid hours as a steady line of friends, family, and neighbors “paid their respects.” I’ll forever cherish in my heart the words and stories they told me.

My dad, an ordinary man who worked for the highway department, had spent a lifetime collecting friends and helping those in need. That was his legacy.

I compare those two. While I do not wish to criticize a man who cannot defend himself, Al Copeland’s life, and subsequent legacy, was much different from that of Clayton Iles.

Yes, legacy.
How we’ll be remembered.
It’s not something you can place in a written will.

Legacy is determined by how we choose to live, not what will happen at our funeral.

Finally, when I think about a man and his legacy, I always turn to my hero.
Yes, Jesus is my hero.
He’s much more than that. He’s the living Son of God and my personal Savior and Lord/Boss.

But he is also my hero.
A hero is someone you respect, admire, look up to, and wish to be like.
All of those reflect how I feel about Jesus.

Jesus left the greatest legacy. A legacy of giving. Of dying in my place on the cross.
A legacy of “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve… and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The legacy of his life, death, and resurrection lives on. Jesus’ legacy has changed the lives of millions over the past two thousand years.

Lord, help me live my life to leave behind a legacy of service, integrity, love, compassion, kindness, resolve, gratitude, and strong relationships with friends and family.

Amen.

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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One comment

  1. This quote from Mother Theresa reminds me of the legacy you and Dee Dee are leaving to your family, friends and everyone you meet.

    “Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow-men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger.” Mother Theresa

    Thanks for sharing your trip experiences on the blog. What beautiful people they are. Hope we get to here more about it soon.

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