What do you want your legacy to look like? Are the actions you are taking today leaving a legacy that will be carried on in people’s hearts for generations to come?

I vividly remember a beautiful, sunny afternoon. I was overwhelmingly happy in the car with my family—after all, it was a glorious, warm afternoon in the fall–highly unusual for Dayton, OH, where the weather is usually cold.

That was until the phone rang.  My brother-in-law gave us horrible news. I went from overwhelmingly happy to overwhelmingly sad—emotionally going from zero to sixty as I heard my brother-in-law say, “Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.”

The tears would not stop flowing. My heart hurt so deeply. My heart hurt for the entire family. I have been in the medical field for over 15 years—from what I know, pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates.

My youngest son was seven years old at the time. I couldn’t picture him growing up without his grandpa—the only one he had left.

I have loving memories of my grandfather who helped raise me. I was fortunate enough to spend time with him throughout my entire childhood, and I learned valuable lessons from him, such as ‘never stop learning’. I can’t imagine what life would have been without my grandpa; he made my childhood unforgettable.

I wanted my son to build lasting memories through his relationship with his grandpa, like those I was blessed to have with my grandpa.

We went to South Dakota the first opportunity we had to spend some quality time with my father-in-law.

I began to ask my father-in-law questions to learn more about him. I will never forget the answer to the question, “What is the one thing that you wish everyone knew?”

He said, “EVERYONE has an expiration date. Some of us know the date, but most of us don’t. How you live your life before your expiration date matters.”

He shared a story about an inmate who was on death-row and had accepted Christ. On the day he was to be executed, he had a huge smile. The other inmates asked him, “Why are you smiling? Don’t you realize you will be executed today?”

The inmate replied, “All of us have an expiration date—except most of us don’t know the date, but I do know mine! I am happy because today I meet my maker and savior!”

My father-in-law was also a man of faith. He had dedicated his life toward serving others. He voluntarily gave his time freely to underprivileged, at-risk youth so that they can grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually to hopefully break free from things that held them back.

Dolly Parton said, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader”.

My father-in-law also devoted his time to serving his family through his life’s example and by giving them words of wisdom so they could be spiritually filled, leaving behind a legacy that today lives on in the hearts of those he loved and onto a thousand generations.

Below are suggested questions you can ask yourself to help build a legacy you can be proud of for years to come. A legacy that will not only survive materially but also will survive in the hearts and minds of those you love after your ‘expiration’ date—an ‘expiration’ date we will all experience.

What are the contents of your book?

My father-in-law has taught me through the way he lives his life that YOUR life IS YOUR book. What does your life look like in the chapters you have written?

What actions are you taking today that will impact the way people remember you? Are the actions you are taking today leaving a legacy that will be carried on in people’s hearts for generations to come?

I will always be thankful for the small gestures my father-in-law has shown me that have left a significant impact on my heart. For example, when I was pregnant with my son, he would call me frequently to make sure my pregnancy was coming along well. He would encourage me when I was feeling ‘blue.’ He had an ear for listening. He took time away from running the farm to call his daughter-in-law, which showed me that he genuinely cared and valued me as a person. His actions showed me he had a kind, loving spirit.

What do you want your legacy to look like?

You can make changes in the way you live your life today so that you can leave behind a powerful, impactful legacy on how others will remember you. A legacy teaching others how to leave behind a legacy of their own by example— an extraordinary inheritance you can give to those you love.