Leaving a Legacy

What would you do, if during your child’s last hour on earth, they asked you to make a promise to carry on their work?

Six years ago today marks the last time I ever saw my brother.  My husband, Austin, and I went to see a movie and laughed together.  I had no idea it would be the last, that the very next day he would be missing.  I think he did though.  I think he had a plan for the next day that we still don’t know all the details of, but meant that we would never see him again.  I think that night out might have been a gift, something he gave me without me knowing at the time what it meant.  Or maybe that night changed his plan, not wanting to bring pain into our home.  Or maybe there was no plan that night, maybe there was only laughter and the illness of depression took it’s final stronghold that next morning.  We may never know.  We have lots of maybes, and very few knowns.

I struggle with those questions, and with what he would want us to be doing six years later.  I don’t think he could have seen, in the darkness of depression, that what he did would still be so heavy on us.  His heart was too good and loving to want this for us.  But I do believe if he could see now, he’d be proud of what we’re trying to do.

Last week I had the great honor of hearing a man speak, a man who almost 18 years ago made a promise to his dying daughter.  She asked him to carry on her work.  Her name was Jenny Eller, and she’d battled Leukemia for almost four years.  During that time, she was a fierce advocate for donating blood, as she had herself needed hundreds of units during her treatment.  Her father, Dean Eller, started fulfilling that promise just a few days after her death when he spoke to a group about the need for donating blood, a group she was scheduled to speak to.  He went on to become a tireless advocate, and eventually to lead the Central California Blood Center where he helps ensure that there is always blood for any patient who needs it.  I’ve been in the beautiful building that he had a vision for, named for his daughter, and seen donors in the chairs fulfilling that promise.

He is fulfilling a promise.  He is leaving a legacy.

Since hearing Dean speak, I’ve been thinking more about my message and my legacy.  Not just for Austin, but for my own sons.  When I’m gone one day, what will I have left or impacted.  What do I want my message to truly be?

I want to help others find their purpose and leave their legacy.

Dean helps ensure that there is blood for everyone who needs it.  (And we should be a part of that by donating at our local blood center!)  My mom Christy works in Search and Rescue, helping families like ours, and is leaving a legacy of service.

What is your passion?  Where can you have an impact?  Never think that your story, your voice, or your life is too small.  Never think that what you do doesn’t matter.  It matters.  You may not have a platform like Dean, or the skills of my mom.  But what you have can have an impact of your family and the community around you.  And when you teach your children to be involved, to care, to donate, you are leaving a legacy.

This year, I have a new purpose, to grow out of my comfort zone and go where God is calling me.  This year I plan to speak to groups, churches, and my own community, about finding your purpose.

I can’t wait to see where that takes me.  It can’t take me back six years to another day with my brother.  But maybe it can help others facing that same darkness of loss.


The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.
~ Proverbs 20:7, NLT


  1. Wow, I truly think this post will help many people in discovering their purpose. Like you, I think that everyone has a purpose but some have to look/find it. My passion and purpose in life is to write and help others, just like you, through my writing. I wish you all the luck on your ventures with helping others! God bless you 🙂
    Keith DuBarry recently posted…Tricked into Drinking Decaf Coffee!My Profile

    • Thank you Keith- it can be hard to find it, especially when going through such circumstances that I know you have also. Having a husband with a chronic illness, we’ve been through the searching that you have and still battle it all years later, but find Hope in sharing that story also. I’m following along your journey, and think you have a real purpose there.

  2. Oh Anita… it is truly heartbreaking to hear of your loss and your brother’s suffering! May you feel a new peace in your purpose… and find hope in helping others!
    Chris Carter recently posted…Collective Blog Hop!My Profile

    • Thanks Chris! I definitely find Hope through others, including people like you who let me know they’re there.

  3. Boy, did I need to read this post! I lost both of my parents to suicide, and have been working on a book about healing, accepting, understanding, forgiving..but it never occurred to me that it might also be a place to look for my purpose! Thank you so much for widening my perspective. My mom was active in several service groups, but the one I recall most clearly was for the Cancer Institute. Dad was a Big Brother for awhile, but they were both usually involved in their community in some way or other. I can see now that in some ways, I’ve been completely missing the point! Thank you!
    Sheri Conaway recently posted…June 24, 2013 My brain guides my hands, but my cats guide my sleepMy Profile

    • Sheri, I am honored that you could find something helpful in my words, because I know that feeling of searching for the healing. Both parents…wow. Losing my brother to what we believe was suicide has taken me to some dark places but also some amazing ones. I look forward to following along with you as you find that purpose. Please keep me updated!

  4. Oh Anita,
    What a hard day for you today. I so very hope that you will get some answers about what happened to Austin. You know, I think it’s an amazing idea to go speak to people about living their purposes and leaving a legacy. I, for one, would most definitely come hear you speak.
    As for myself – thank you for this reminder: “Never think that your story, your voice, or your life is too small. Never think that what you do doesn’t matter. It matters.” I really need to spend some time figuring out what to spend my time doing. I recently took a part-time job and I’m not feeling that it’s aiding my purpose (writing??)…but also feel guilty about quitting it as the money is nice and allows us to put away for things my son may need later. Thanks for this reminder that I need to figure this out!
    Kristi Campbell recently posted…When a friend’s pain leads to the best idea of your lifeMy Profile

    • Figuring things out is always the part I’d rather just have done for me! And Kristi, I know that however you choose to share your story moving forward, you have a voice that has impact. It already does, and I’m glad I get to hear it. I’d rather throw myself into these pursuits full time sometimes, but remind myself that my ‘real’ job serves purpose too- it can be a personal connection with people to share, but also does provide for my family in very necessary ways. It doesn’t have to be either or.

  5. Considerer says:

    It’s awesome that you are bringing something so good out of something so horrendous. Thank you for sharing. I hope one day I get to leave a good legacy of…something.
    Considerer recently posted…Time in the Loony BinMy Profile

    • I think that anyone hoping to leave a legacy is already on their way to it… determining for yourself what that legacy should be is a big step.

  6. What a great question to ask yourself. I need to do some thinking on this myself. I attended a luncheon for the YWCA yesterday and it also got me thinking about how I could get involved. Hugs on the loss of your brother…
    Kate recently posted…Shouldn’t love be easy?My Profile

    • Thanks Kate! It’s amazing what something like a YWCA or the conference I attended last week can do to kickstart you into things you know you want to do.

  7. Thanks for sharing your story, Anita. So sorry for your loss!

    Love this song about legacy: http://youtu.be/N0M8laLgKMk

  8. I have truly enjoyed reading many of your beautifully written posts. This one particularly resonated with me. I think about what legacy I am leaving quite often. I love what you say about going out of your comfort zone to where God is calling you. I can so relate. I have given God control of my life’s journey and He is guiding every step. Granted, it is not always easy, but I am finally feel at peace knowing I am listening to the calling God is placing on my heart and will leave an impact on the world through Him. Thank you so much for connecting with me. Your messages are a gift.
    Hands Free Mama recently posted…To Love & Protect a Child in a Digital WorldMy Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge