Good Men Project

Throw Beck Thursday: How Do You Want to be Remembered?

NapoleonI’ve never really cared about my legacy, and then I read the obituary of a crazy racist.

beckI was raised in South Carolina, though I haven’t lived there now for close to 30 years. That’s irrelevant, though. As any of you with a social media network knows, we never really leave our hometowns anymore. We may physically move away but the likes, pokes, friend requests and news feeds keep those childhood friends and places popping up like digital prairie dogs.

That’s how the following headline landed in my lap: “Barbecue eatery owner, segregationist Maurice Bessinger dies at 83.” Talk about an attention grabber. I didn’t know whether to regret the loss of a life and the passing of a barbecue master, or feel relieved that there was one less racist stomping around my old home. Neither did the obituary’s author, apparently, who covered both Bessinger’s tasty food and tasteless politics. And nor did the Bessinger family, who vowed to keep serving daddy’s delicious barbecue without his signature side of crazy racism.

The whole thing reminded me of a therapy visit years ago, where my therapist sent me home to write my own obituary. I worried over that assignment for days and came up empty.

“Why don’t you think you could write it?” she asked during my next visit.

“I’m not ready to confront the third ghost,” I said.

“What does that mean?”

“You know, Dickens. A Christmas Carol.”

But I’m ready to face that ugly bastard now, and here’s the thing: I still don’t care how I’m remembered in the monumental sense of the phrase. I have no eye toward my name outliving me; no, I will die someday and my crap will be sold off by an estate liquidator for pennies on the dollar. If I’m lucky I’ll keel over in a state that allows earthly remains to become plant food, so at least I’ll get one last shot at recycling. And that will be that. I will be less of a mark on the human record than the dead parrot in that Monty Python sketch.

My writing life won’t matter, either, but it will. It will matter to my only true legacy, which of course is my children. I’ll be happy knowing I haven’t left them to apologize for me while still offering my amazing barbecue at family-friendly prices. If they remember me as a good man and get a kick out of reading the articles I left behind; well, that’s good enough for me.

But that’s enough about my future, less heart-beaty me. This particular post is all about you: How do you want to be remembered?

photo public domain / Wikimedia Commons

originally posted at The Good Men Project

Categories: Good Men Project

2 replies »

  1. I’m an enthusiastic amateur genealogist. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my research, it’s that you should write your own obituary, or it will be left to someone else to do. I hope that my work is meaningful to others, now and in the future. But something else I’ve learned, as a writer descended from countless illiterate people, is that the way you live your life matters even if no one writes it down. You’re surrounded by people who are not just your peers but your successors in this world. You’re already a member of the village, or villages, where you touch other lives. Consider the baker who provided the madeleine that inspired Proust. We’re not just object lessons in mortality or pride but actors in the world. The reason I want to write is because I want people to feel something because of me. I can do that without writing but not by doing nothing at all.

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