Have you unlocked life’s key to a loving legacy in death?

Anthony, me, and my youngest daughter at a family reunion 21 years ago. (That's my Dad in the background)

What’s the secret to living your life in a self-less way?

My cousin seemed to know. And he had mastered the secret so well that his co-workers, friends and family didn’t struggle at all to find the words during his home-going service on April 25th that showed what a loving and supportive man he was.

My mind didn’t struggle at all either.

I didn’t have to think back to our teenage years to discover how self-less, as opposed to selfish, my cousin was. From then til the moment he took his last breath, he was doing for others. He never seemed to tire of it. He did his best not to hold grudges; not to judge harshly; not to allow anything or anybody to step in front of his commitment to family and friends. And if he had any issues, he did his best to mend them. Not only did he try to live his life in the most giving way possible, he did his best to take people by the hand and bring them with him. And nearly a week after his burial, I’m still wondering what his secret was. How was it possible to maintain love unconditionally like that?

During Anthony’s home-going service, our cousin Rev. Dr. Harold O. Bennett called it Anthony’s legacy. He said that he left a legacy of selflessness; and he encouraged all of us to look inside of our hearts and do the same. As I stared at him through teary eyes and listened to his words, I wondered if I was self-less enough to build a legacy like that.

In the book “Tuesday’s with Morrie” Morrie Schwartz said, “the way you get meaning in your life is to devote yourself to loving others….”

Devote myself to loving others. I’ve been thinking about that along with my cousin’s encouraging sermon about living a life of selflessness. The two concepts walk hand-in-hand but I’m not sure I know  how do they fit in with our daily lives of stress, disappointments, pain and emotional and physical abusive situations? How do we keep our heart open when our “loved” ones do hurtful things, never apologize and continue to pile hurtful things on top of that?  How do we rise above all of that to reach a higher level of selflessness in our lives?

My best example of total, beat-down frustration is the eldest child I gave birth to who grew up accusing me of not giving her enough material things, of not treating her fairly, of not being a good mother to her. Basically of not loving her enough in the manner that she would considered being loved. Over the years of her adulthood, she “told” me all of this via major disrespect as well as verbal and physical abuse. Four months ago, after we celebrated her 27th birthday, and while I nursed my swollen face, scratches and picked her dreadlocks up off my living room floor and let her words that she wished I was dead sink in, I decided I was done.

I talked briefly to my cousin Anthony about severing my ties with this daughter and I recall him calmly listening to me and hesitantly cautioning me to re-think my position. He knew that it wasn’t what I wanted. He’d listened countless times before about my guilt that as my eldest daughter, she got the worst of my insecurities; about my anger and frustration that no matter how much I’ve apologized and tried to make things right, it’s never enough. He didn’t like nor did he agree with the finality in my voice, but respected my frustration, anger and exhaustion enough not to judge or ridicule.

We never got a chance to continue talking about it and now that he’s gone, I find that my mind constantly asks,  “how would Anthony handle this?” Or, “how would my father who passed away in 2005 handle this?” What was their secret for getting past the hurt, anger, frustration of any situation? How was it that the loving part of themselves always shone bright and shiny – so that that’s what people remember foremost about them? What inner demons did they have to fight in order to live self-less lives?

Does the Bible have the answers? Many people think so. I do feel better when I read it, just as I do with any other self-help book. But I still feel frustrated that it’s hard for me to maintain my self-less behavior when another slap is stinging my cheek.

Maybe I am expecting too much. Is it wrong to expect that the people you give your heart to, to at least cradle it gently? Is it wrong to expect some level of reciprocation that you are doing your best – at least a hesitation to disrespect, a hesitation for selfishness, a hesitation for verbal or physical abuse?

I don’t know what the answer is. Perhaps writing my anger, my frustrations, my disappointments will keep my heart open to show my unconditional love. Perhaps it will aid in my quest to live a life of selflessness that my cousin spoke so eloquently about at our cousin’s home-going service.

I’ll keep reading. I’ll keep writing. I’ll do my best to communicate for answers.

Perhaps those are the secrets.

I’m willing to work on finding out.

8 thoughts on “Have you unlocked life’s key to a loving legacy in death?

  1. Pingback: Page not found | VINTAGE VICKI

  2. And of course I meant “latest” not lastest..smh. I tried to change it before it posted but I was too late.

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  3. Im so sorry to read that situations haven’t improved and of the latest encounter. i still hope and pray that one day things will get better…but I also realize that sometimes you have to remove yourself and love from a distance to allow healing to take place. Not just physical healing, but emotional and mental healing as well. I continue to ask for a praying and forgiving spirit…and though sometimes it may take a little longer than maybe it should…I believe I am getting better with letting go and letting God help me through anger, anxiety, and disappointments. Dad and Anthony were good with that. I know we can’t change everybody, but we can change ourselves. My quest is to be more understanding, more patient, and more communicative with my family and friends. For we know tomorrow is not promised….and I do want to leave a legacy of selflessness and love!

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    • No … things had not improved … didn’t feel the need to bring anything about her up again; figured you’d heard enough. I keep hoping that one day things might change but I was losing myself dealing with her – as well as losing my grip on controlling my stress level. There was no equality in working things out. She expected me to accomodate my emotions, my sanity and my life to suit her. She didn’t care a bit about having a relationship. I’ll have to address this again one day if I’m ever going to clear my slate. I need distance now.

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  4. Im so sorry to read that situations haven’t improved and of the lastest encounter. i still hope and pray that one day things will get better…but I also realize that sometimes you have to remove yourself and love from a distance to allow healing to take place. Not just physical healing, but emotional and mental healing as well. I continue to ask for a praying and forgiving spirit…and though sometimes it may take a little longer than maybe it should…I believe I am getting better with letting go and letting God help me through anger, anxiety, and disappointments. Dad and Anthony were good with that. I know we can’t change everybody, but we can change ourselves. My quest is to be more understanding, more patient, and more communicative with my family and friends. For we know tomorrow is not promised….and I do want to leave a legacy of selflessness and love!

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  5. Oh Vicki, how it saddens my heart to think of what internal battles you have waged. It’s saddened even more because I know exactly where you are, having lived through a similar relationship with my own daughter. In my case, it is my youngest daughter (2nd child of 4.) There came a time when I had to cut ties, too. As much as it pains me to cast her out, it is my love for the rest of my children, friends, and family that helps me. THAT is the self-less part.

    My relationship with my youngest daughter was so incredibly toxic and abusive (both mentally and physically) that I could not be the kind of mom, friend, daughter, sister or other loved-one that the rest of the people in my life truly deserved. I walked around in an endless state of stress, discontentment, anger, and guilt. Looking back, I didn’t even like me then. It wasn’t fair to my sons, my oldest daughter, my grandchildren, or anyone else within a reasonable distance. I snarled and snapped at everyone, stayed home from events, and at times, even stayed hidden in my room.

    Looking back, I’m more guilty and angry over all of the years I let the abuse continue and let it cost those nearest and dearest to me. I allowed the situation to rob them of the best parts of me, simply because I could not bear the idea of turning my back on my own child. What kind of mother would do that, right? The truth is, I didn’t want to feel like a bad mom for cutting those ties – even in the midst of being screamed at, called horrid names, shoved, punched, slapped, and treated like used toilet paper. In that regard, it was my own selfishness that kept me from doing what anyone else would have thought the right and healthy thing to do. I still hold out hope that someday, she’ll make the choice to change – to get the help she so desperately needs. In the meantime, I live selflessly by enduring the pain of casting out a child in an effort to give the best of me to those in my life who really do need me.

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    • Sounds like our lives are nearly parallel in this case Sandi. It’s not easy to have to make that decision to walk away. I don’t usually talk about it anymore because I think it’s hard for people to be able to relate to taking that stance with your own flesh and blood.
      But it’s not something that happens overnight; and my idea of what it means to live a selfless life was twisted where she was concerned. Even years of drama and an article that I penned myself about recognizing toxic relationships and the hazards of not addressing them, hadn’t convinced me that I needed to walk away yet. I thought she was my fault, and therefore my cross to bear. I thought being selfless meant that I had to endure her actions – shut down my inner voice that told me she needed more help that I can give her. I just needed to deal with it and eventually she would come around.
      Now, like you, I’m hoping she’ll get help.
      I hope one day this will be in the past for both of us.

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