Episode 108: A Lesson in Legacy: Are You Living for What Matters Most?

July 18, 2022


Hopefully, it makes an impact that shifts the way you live forever. 

Recently, I flew home to say goodbye to my loved ones, two of them. While death is always sad, it was some of the most clarifying and inspiring time I’ve experienced in a while. So, today is all about what legacy really means and why oftentimes, we’re doing it all wrong.

I’ll share a little glimpse into my time at home, why it spoke to me so deeply and I’ll share something that was not shared outside our family but I believe it can make such an impact that I decided to bring it here to all of you.


[2:03] What Are You Really Chasing?

A eulogy can be so sobering. It’s this reminder that the end is imminent and all we have is this moment. And the combination of moments, hopefully many of them, make up how we’re remembered, the impact that we make, the legacy that we actually leave behind. 

Isn’t it funny how much time and energy we spend on things that we wouldn’t care to have captured in our eulogy? That next offer we create or how much money we make, or the car we buy, or our social media or how we’re perceived by people we don’t even know? We keep forgetting to juxtapose those things up against the legacy we hope to create to make sure that it’s aligned. I witnessed legacy recently in a very profound way and I wanted to share that with you in the hopes that it sparks some clarity in you as to what you’re really chasing and why.

[2:59]   The Great Generation 

My grandmother, our Nana, was first generation. Her parents came over from Italy and Nana was one of 11 kids in her big Italian family, and each of them went on to have many children. My Nana had seven of her own, one of whom was my mother, and her other siblings had many as well. We had such a blessed childhood, because typically family is either just that nuclear unit, your parents and your siblings or, if you’re lucky, you extend out into your cousins. But I grew up in a giant Italian family that all lived within a one mile radius of each other. It was our siblings, and parents and aunts and uncles and first cousins, and then my parents’ first cousins, and then their kids. It was all interwoven. Sundays were just literally a feast and a party. 

Growing up, my grandmother’s siblings were like surrogate grandparents to us. She had many sisters, and they would help raise us up in morality and be there to support us even well into adulthood. And recently, the last two of her siblings, my auntie Anne and uncle Michael, passed away within a day of each other. We lost that whole generation. It was wild to say goodbye to that great generation because there were so many lessons and so much wisdom and so much humility and hard work, and just so many gifts that came through them. 

So, I wanted to share a little bit about the experience of going to the services, and how that represents legacy. How I view legacy and how it has me thinking so differently about how I want to live my life today, with the end game in mind.

[6:36]  The Eulogy  

As we walked into the church on the day of auntie Anne’s funeral, the first glimpse of true legacy happened in that initial moment as the music was playing. There was an endless stream of people coming into the church to honor the lives of that generation. To me, that beautifully captured the idea of what true legacy is, the capturing of what matters most and what it looks like to live in accordance with that. I feel like we come from a generation that prioritizes a lot of the wrong things and tells us to put ourselves ahead of others. My hope is to capture the essence of a different perspective that might shift your perspective on what your legacy could stand to be. 

What I’ll share next are some of the lessons and values I extracted from auntie Anne’s eulogy:

  • First one is humility. She didn’t care about how she was being represented. She didn’t want to be seen as a saint. She didn’t want to be glorified on the altar. She lived a humble existence, and she wanted that to be captured. Her legacy to her wasn’t about her; it was her family, it was about what she was leaving behind.
  • Second is the unity and the bond within a family. This was something that was always so strong in our family and still is. We protect each other, we protect each other’s reputations and honor and it’s just such a beautiful piece of legacy. 
  • Third is the teamwork of family and siblings looking out for each other. I’ve experienced this time and time again in our extended family and sometimes I take that for granted because I know that not all families operate that way.
  • The fourth one is love and fortitude. These people had six babies in a two bedroom apartment without complaint. As I listened to the eulogy, the same thought rattled through my brain: “Oh my God, I’m such a frickin wimp.” It’s up to us to instill more of that fortitude, that strength, and that resilience, and just that “go after it” attitude. 
  • Fifth is the idea of putting yourself last. And this is not in a self-deprecating way, it’s from having a faith strong enough that it fills her up and spills out into those she served. She got her strength and love from her faith in God and her devotion to the Blessed Mother. There’s no amount of self care that’s going to give you the strength you need and the fortitude you need to live out this type of legacy. It has to come from something divine, it has to come from something so much bigger and more powerful than you. She also got her strength from her husband. They were each other’s strength and they complemented each other beautifully.
  • Next, remaining calm no matter what. Staying calm and taking ownership in the face of a challenge. Looking for solutions, keeping your people calm and leading them – this is such a beautiful picture of what leadership can look like even in your own home. I think sometimes we think of leadership from a business perspective, but there’s so much more to it and auntie Anne clearly had that gift.
  • Number seven is finding a way. I think sometimes we approach life with this “lack” mindset or weighing how it makes us feel instead of leaning into the discipline of what’s going to get us to the other side. Feelings are important and they need to be addressed, but at the same time, we can certainly take note of how this generation leaned less into their emotions and more so into the discipline and the grit to get it done. And it’s not easy. But is “easy” really the goal? 
  • And finally, love for God and family. This greatest generation, they all had that same superpower – they love God and family, and they recognize God’s presence in every person.

[24:45]  What Legacy Really Looks Like

As I listened to this whole thing with tears rolling down my face, I was feeling so inspired. I was so clear on what I’m called to, where I come from, where I’m going and what legacy really looks like. 

We get it twisted. Family is what matters most and everything else revolves around that. My clients, my social media following, the people who someday read the book I write, they won’t be getting up at my funeral and sharing what they thought of me – my children will, my family will, my husband will. I don’t want to spend years of our relationships, the relationships that actually matter, chasing a reputation perceived by the wrong crowd.

I share all of this in the hopes that you can formulate and craft what that legacy is for you. What would that look like? Who would be in that church and what would they be saying? What’s the heartbeat of what really matters? And what are you willing to sacrifice and who are you willing to become to live it today to ensure that it’s true? Because the truth is that we don’t know when our legacy officially kicks off. We don’t know our timelines. But I know that there have been many times over the years that I’ve had it backwards. And I’ve had it twisted. But not anymore. Those were two of the most inspiring days that I have personally experienced, so I had to share it with you. 

I hope today’s episode helps you capture the essence and vision for your legacy, for what you’re creating and what you’re leaving behind.

And if this episode spoke to you, make sure to subscribe and leave us a review! Come connect with me on Instagram at @elizhartke! If there’s a topic, a question or a guest you want to hear on the show, just reach out and share that. We do this for you so the more you tell us, the more we can serve.


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