« Previous  
 Next »

Killacky: The Best Legacy

09/22/11 5:55PM By John Killacky
 MP3   Download MP3 

(HOST) Recently, commentator John Killacky has been contemplating deep philosophical questions - while reading the daily newspaper.

(KILLACKY) Learning of the death of a dear colleague got me thinking about how a life is remembered, so I spent last month reading obituaries in The New York Times and Burlington Free Press.

If you want to be eulogized in the Times, it helps to be in the entertainment industry. More than one-third of the death notices featured luminaries: television and radio exec's, superstar managers, record label founders, opera, gospel, and heavy metal singers, child actors, songwriters, filmmakers, and fiddlers.

Sports stars were also favored, with 10% of the notices. There were figures from horse racing, basketball, tennis, boxing, football, and a Boston Marathon winner. Almost as popular, were civic leaders who defied the Nazis, opposed nuclear power plants, infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, negotiated peace in Northern Ireland, and were civil rights and AIDS activists.

Politicians, diplomats, and spies ranked just above writers and visual artists at 4%. Less prominent were doctors and educators, as well as entrepreneurs who founded drug companies, cheese steak restaurants, sold soap, and popularized cigars and motorcycles.

But obituaries in the Free Press were markedly different, both in tone and style. Family and friends penned these, not journalists. Schooling, military service, and occupations introduced each post, but more prominent was whom a person loved and who loved the deceased. After all, these are written in loving memory by those left behind.

Hobbies and community engagement were highly valued in these pages. I was touched to read about church and volunteer activities, as well as free-time pursuits: hunting, fishing, cooking, gardening, bowling, cars, and horses.

The New York Times wrote about iconic larger than life figures. However, the hyper-local perspectives of the Free Press gave me more insight into the lives fully lived here.

It seems to me that whom we love and whom we serve resonate most deeply when describing a legacy. Helping your neighbor and contributing to a greater common good seem more important than how much we accumulate. The essence of a life well lived is not power, but love and generosity.

Vermonters doing everything they can to help with flood relief have certainly demonstrated this. Providing food and shelter, bringing animal feed, raising dollars jointly, helping to restore homes, offices, libraries, and barns is just a small sampling of extraordinary intentional acts of kindness. There have been some grand gestures, but most people are simply lending a helping hand, doing what they can.

From volunteering in cleanup duties to larger efforts like the PHISH and Grace Potter benefit concerts and other fundraising efforts on behalf of Vermont Disaster Relief, the citizens of our state are sharing whatever resources they can, not for aggrandizement and acknowledgement, but because it's the right thing to do - the best kind of legacy.

comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter