June 13, 2014

What is your legacy?

I have an aunt, whom I've never met. 

She died when she was 11, after suffering from Leukemia for several years. 

Her life ended too early, without having a chance to blossom into the person she could possibly be. 

Over the course of a few years, my aunt went through one treatment after another to fight her cancer. She was finally doing better, or at least it appeared that way, after trying a new medication imported from America. My grandparents had to pay for it out of their own pocket since their insurance didn't cover the cost. It was during the post WWII era, and the entire Japanese society was still poor at the time, including my grandparents. 

My grandparents weren't ready to let go of their daughter. 
They were willing to do anything to give her a chance to live. 

"One year,"
the doctor said.
"If she stays clear for one year with this new medication, I'd say the cancer is in remission."

My grandparents believed the doctor's words, and invested their fortune into this drug that was supposed to bring a cure. 

"Please dear God, or whatever it is out there,"
they prayed,
"please let this work. Please give our daughter a chance to live!"

Despite their constant prayers, her cancer suddenly took an unexpected turn for the worse. My aunt's life came to an abrupt end without giving her family enough time to process what they had to let go. 

It was a tragic loss for our family. My mother, who is a big sister to my aunt, still refuses to mention her name after fifty years. Even as a child, I understood the unspoken agreement of not going to this vulnerable place. For my mom, it's been the scar that should never be touched. 

My grandmother, on the other hand, brought her beloved daughter's memories back to life by sharing her stories with me.

My aunt Reiko was a creative spirit, full of life, who didn't stop drawing on a sketchbook even when she was ill, dying from cancer. She drew cartoons and created elaborate stories about friendships. The friendships she probably yearned to have herself outside of the hospital ward. 

Even though we've never met face to face, I'd always felt my aunt's presence throughout my childhood. I admired her drawings, played with a doll that was once hers, and saddened by the stories of how she courageously fought with cancer and lost her battle in the end.  

Beyond the time and space, my aunt have shared her gift of drawing and crafting stories with me through my grandmother's stories. My grandmother's gift of storytelling has enriched my life beyond words.

Their stories now slowly merge into mine, and their legacy will continue to live through me. 

I believe we are here to serve specific purposes in our lives. You create your legacy by generously sharing your gift with others. Your legacy may not be something monumental that changes the entire world or stand the test of time over a century. But we are here to make a difference, no matter how big or small it is.

The meaning of life is to find your gift.
The purpose of life is to give it away.
                                         - Pablo Picasso

I wonder what kind of legacy I'm going to leave behind. Just like my aunt and grandmother infused their love for art and storytelling into me, I know I will make a difference in someone's life when I share my gift. 
We are the threads.
Together, we weave a beautiful piece of tapestry.

I am becoming the person I'm designed to be, one step at a time. 

What is your gift you're going to share with the world?

What kind of legacy are you going to leave behind? 


  1. Dear Yuko ... cancer has touched our family more than once. But the power of a legacy lasts forever. How grateful I am for that.

    Blessings, friend.

  2. Very thoughtful post Yuko! I've never thought about the legacy and memories I will leave behind me, very good food for thought...

  3. I love this post. It's incredible how other family members live through us. I've often thought about writing a post about the persistent parallels between my great grandfather (born in 1896!) and myself. I never knew him but there are several undeniable traits we share, I'm told.
    So interesting how differently family members handle grief. I understand how your mother would just not be able to talk about it. I'm glad other family members shared her memory with you!

  4. i agree that the death of a child is tragic in our eyes. perhaps, though, she had achieved her purpose here. we tend to think that we will live a long time, but God, the source of all life, doesn't view life according to time. He has different purposes for each person's life, and while your aunt was not here long, she had a profound impact, did she not?

    makes living intentionally each day something to pursue. tomorrow is not promised.


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