I watched the Jim Stynes funeral today and lamented the loss of a fine man to the world. I got a bit weepy as the beautiful Gaelic language of his country and mine, farewelled him. I watched his family mourn him, somehow feeling that I was intruding on something deeply painful. But this was a man whose battle played out for the world to see and, to learn from and it got me thinking.
It made me think about Jim’s legacy and what he’s left behind. It seems to me that he leaves behind three main things: a life of achievement, of love and laughter.
I could do endless Google searches to confirm the impact this gentle giant had on the world and on the individuals whose lives he touched. Everywhere I looked, I saw the countless faces of young kids whose lives had transformed because of him. The mark he leaves on the work is truly amazing, indelible in fact.
His passion knew no limits. Passion drove him and it will be passion that people remember him for.
That’s the legacy of Jim Stynes.
But this made me think about legacy and what we leave behind when our time comes. It seems strange to me that we need to experience the loss of someone in order to do a stock take of our own lives to see what matters and what doesn’t.
I’ve always described myself as a bit existentially challenged. Like most people, I’ve gotten caught up in looking for meaning, for what my place in the world is, what it should be or, what it hasn’t been. Living in the head often prohibits us living from the heart and I’ve been guilty of this at times.
I became focused on relationships, a career, a mortgage and buying lots of stuff that I really didn’t need. I seemed to have it all assets-wise at least and in my mind, that seemed like a win.
Then I faced a health battle of my own. I suffered an illness that was serious enough to worry that I might not have the long life I’d hoped for.
This threw me for a loop and I was more than a little peeved. This was not my plan or on the list of goals I was planning to tick off with methodical smugness.
Then I remembered my dad’s often amused expression when he’d see me rushing about the place, conquering some new task or goal. He’d gently tell me to stop and smell the roses. I remember feeling, in my arrogance, like he was patronising me. I used to dismiss it as a useless euphemism because who really has the time? Didn’t he see how busy I was?
I know it was totally obnoxious but my illness cut through that, thankfully.
Bedridden, I looked around me and realised I wasn’t happy with all of the bright shiny things in my life, I hated my job with the incredible salary and the relationship I was in, made me feel lonely.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t know who I was or, who I wanted to be. I just knew I was sick and it terrified me.
I finally understood what my dad was saying.
So what did I do?
I got well. I quit the job, left the relationship, left the state, set my sights on the career I’d always wanted but never had the balls to try, and started from scratch.
When I look back it makes my head spin as I threw caution to the wind and started making decisions from the heart.
It frightened the shit out of me but I don’t regret it, not for a minute. Even when it’s been really hard and, at times it’s been very hard.
What I realised is that If we strip back the layers and come from a position of humility; life becomes more manageable and produces a simple beauty to the living of our lives.
I get that we want to fit in, to be part of something that’s bigger than ourselves. Stopping to smell the roses allows us to drop our defences, our self absorption, the need for bright shiny things and, the need for others to like us or add us to Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
When all is said and done, none of this will matter. It will be how we used our time, however brief it might have been, to make a difference. Jim made a difference and his legacy is a blueprint for us all and in my mind, this is what legacies are made of.
It’s leaving a mark borne of passion, of perseverance and a life lived not in fear, but in full flight.
That will be my legacy. I’ll turn up my toes knowing that I loved fully, laughed loudly, worked hard and occupied a place in the hearts of some special people.
Serena is a producer / journo and the co-creator/producer of the reality series Mad Hatters. An adoring owner of her puppy Lola, a drinker of big reds and a penguin at heart, her secret shame is her addiction to Jersey Shore. You can follow her on Twitter here
What will your legacy be?