09/18/2015 04:56 EDT | Updated 09/18/2016 05:12 EDT

Don't Wait to Preserve Your Legacy

Senior's hands on a checkerboard by an egg-timerTo see my other images about aging please visit my

Don't let your time run out!

When I got a call from my doctor telling me I've got cancer, it made me a whole lot more aware of the clock. Let's call it "The Legacy Clock."

"Legacy?" Huh? Isn't making legacies just for rich, famous, or dead people?

Uh, no. Actually, legacies are all about "story." In my last two posts, we talked about collecting and telling your stories and gathering stories.

Think about it. If your grandparents or your great, great, great grandparents had written one page or 200 pages about their lives and who they were, would that be really, really great to have? Methinks YES! I mean, those are the people you came from.

Because of technology, we have the chance to do just that for our ancestors. It's our legacy for them. But there's no guarantee we'll get it done.

I talked to an old friend about a month ago. We were going to sit down and have a taped conversation about his life, using some of the techniques I wrote about in previous posts. He wanted to give the transcript to his kids.

He died a couple of weeks ago. The stories, his children's link to his voice, his great, great grandchildren's knowledge that "Yes, that's my great, great grandfather"-- they're all gone.

George Bernard Shaw said the ultimate statistic is that "One out of one dies."

Does each of us have the time to collect those legacy stories or build the legacies we dream of? Who knows? I could be hit by a runaway herd of water buffalo or live to 99.


Do this little exercise with me. How long do you think you'll live? I say I'll live until I'm 84 years old.

How old are you now? I'm 64.

What percentage of my life do I have left? I've got 20 years left... divided by 84... Yikes! I've got 24 per cent of my life left ahead of me (and that's IF the water buffalo don't hunt me down, first)!

Said Oliver Wendell Holmes:

"Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it's because they're always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out."

This poem was found in the pocket of Al Capone's lawyer, Easy Eddie O'Hare. Easy Eddie was taken down by a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street because he had ratted on Capone. He was trying to make good so his family would be proud of him. Tragic, yes, but his story lives on.

The clock of life is wound but once

And no man has the power to tell

Just when the hands will stop

At late or early hour.

Now is the only time you own.

Live, love, toil with a will.

Place no faith in time.

For the clock may soon be still.

So, we've discovered time can be our friend -- and sometimes a bit of a pest. It's a reminder that legacy-building shouldn't wait, except maybe when you're driving your car (with apologies to Ogden Nash):

Beneath this slab

John Brown is stowed

He watched his phone

And not the road.

More on how to create all kinds of legacies in my book Legacies Aren't Just for Dead People.


Letters To Our Ancestors