What Will Your Legacy Be?

The date marking 20 years since my father’s passing came up recently. In looking back, I can recall that day as if it were only yesterday.

My father was in a hospital in Fresno, California, for heart bypass surgery, and I’d flown in from New Orleans where I was doing my residency in anesthesiology at Louisiana State University. The operation had gone smoothly, and he was recovering in the ICU, soon to be transferred to a regular hospital bed. Our family had gathered to support him, and because there were no complications, it was decided that I should return to my residency. I’d used all of my vacation days and needed to get back.

As soon as he was awake, I went to his ICU room for a brief visit and to say goodbye. In accordance with Indian tradition, I touched his feet. He placed his right hand over my head and blessed me in Hindi.

“My time has come, my son,” he said weakly. I listened but assured him that all had gone well and he was out of danger. As I was departing, he said, “If you keep your consciousness clear and be truthful to yourself, the universe and the divine will take care of you.”

Sadly and shocking to us all, that same night he passed away after developing complications from being on an aspirator. But his final words have stayed with me over these past 20 years, acting as a guiding light as I went through my own “dark night of the soul.” His wise message is the legacy he left behind for me and others to follow.

So my friends, I challenge you to give some thought to what your own last words might be. What message do you wish to pass on to those you love?

Here are the words I offer: Be kind, loving, and forgiving, for in the end these are the things that count, not the size of your bank account or how many houses you have owned and left behind.