From the CEO

Dust in the Wind

The last day of this month I turn 70. As we all get older, we tend to think more about our legacy and how we will be remembered. But the truth is, legacies and memories have a limited shelf life.

My brother traveled to Schopfloch, Germany, to explore the hamlet of our ancestors. His tour of that medieval town eventually brought him to the Lutheran church cemetery. When he couldn’t find any headstones for Eshelman—our family name before colonial relatives Americanized it—he asked the vicar where they might be.

Gesturing like a song leader with fidgety fingers, he said, “Sie sind pulver in der brise.” Translation: They are powder in the breeze.

Much to my brother’s surprise, he learned that after ten decades in the Deutschland dirt, if there are no relatives around to cover gravesite care, the caskets are dug up and the skeletons are ground to power and cast to the wind. (And, I guess, the vacancy sign gets turned back on above the cemetery gate.)

I once heard someone say that for 99.9 percent of the population, 100 years after we are gone, here on earth we will be completely forgotten. No living descendants will have met us. Our photos will have long disappeared from walls and credenzas and hard drives. Any personal effects of perceived value will be locked in a trunk in a great-granddaughter’s attic—only to be discarded when eventually discovered.

For any future researchers who care about genealogy, electronic records will provide our names and lifespan dates. Those who search further via the Internet might find an unflattering photo or two and a few lines about our career or standout accomplishments (e.g., s/he invented the skeleton pulverizer).

Herein lies the very clear life lesson: If you plan to leave anything that resembles a legacy, you need to start leaving it now, and you need to leave it with those who know you best. If yours is a life well-lived, it is your children and grandchildren or other close relatives who will pass on the essence of your existence. In these fleeting days of summer, what percent of your time are they getting?

Consider the words of King Solomon, King David, and the band Kansas:

“Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren” (Proverbs 13:22a, NLT).

“Those who are righteous will be long remembered” (Psalm 112:6b, NLT).

“Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1, NLT).

All we do
Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

It slips away
And all your money won’t another minute buy
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Explore your reputation with family, staff, colleagues, and friends. If you sense that your legacy needs some enhancing, now is the time to get to it. Start with a heartfelt letter to your spouse and children or closest friends—one that will be a keepsake they can treasure when you’re gone.