By Caitlin Kelly
Few events will raise this thorny question as powerfully as a funeral.
Who spoke and what did they say about the deceased?
I spent an hour Thursday morning at the funeral of the 91-year-old woman who shared a wall with us for 17 years. We didn’t know her well. We knew her name, and that she was a local, and that she had several adult daughters in town.
She was always friendly, but deeply private.
I learned a lot about her and her life — widowed at 44 with four daughters — when I listened to the eulogy.
The pews were filled with friends and neighbors, children and grand-children, including a very small baby.
This time last year, we attended a funeral for a much beloved and eccentric New York Times colleague, who worked, literally, side by side for eight years with my husband Jose. They weathered the storm of the crash of 2008, fought, made up, laughed and became close.
Zvi, who played tennis every week into his 70s and was lean and fit, was hit by a rare and aggressive cancer and dead within months of his diagnosis. Jose was asked to give the eulogy.
When you sit in the pews attending someone’s funeral, it’s natural to wonder what those left behind would say of you and how you chose to live your life.
Did you give back?
Were you generous and kind?
Did you laugh often?
Did you mentor?
If you don’t have children or close younger relatives — and I do not — this question of legacy is a real and pressing one, and only grows with every year I’m still alive.
Am I leaving a good life behind?
Am I doing enough for others?
Legacy isn’t only about your family or your work or whatever financial assets are left in your estate.
Nor need you be wealthy enough to be an official philanthropist or have your name on a building, as most of us never will.
Every day we create our legacy.
Yes, including weekends!
Do you ever think about this as well?