Senior Voice America - Tampa Bay -

How Would You Like to be Remembered?


January 1, 2021 | View PDF

How Would You Like to be Remembered?

How people answer this question depends

upon when in their lives it is asked. Was it

at the beginning or end of a career,

or at personal achievement's highest or

lowest ebb? There are also those whose self-worth or self-esteem is so low that

they prefer to be completely forgotten.

Thomas Jefferson left specific instructions for these words be inscribed on the headstone of his grave: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence."

Eight years before his death, in an interview with a Rolling Stones moderator, Michael Jackson said, "I like to dance and sing and, hopefully, one day I can be in the Guinness Book of World Records."

A number of famous actors and actresses preferred being forgotten after their highest levels of achievement began to decline. Rita Hayworth is a tragic exam-ple: After a long career of starring in highly successful films, alcohol and Al-zheimer's disease began taking their toll. Decimated by loss of favor among filmmakers, Hayworth wanted the public to remember her the way she was, not as she had become. According to a 2009 article in the Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, being famous may lead to a loss of privacy, feelings of entitlement, ego-gratification and symbolic immortality. She experienced a deep sense of loss.

People would like to be remembered because it gives them a sense of hope and meaning, something to fill the emptiness that usually comes with old age. Be-ing remembered is like holding onto life and all its stability. Being forgotten is like never having lived nor made any impact on the world.

A poignant 1939 film entitled, Goodbye Mr. Chips, starring Robert Donat, traces his long academic life in a British school. After his career ends, he wonders what impact he had on the boys who sat before him in class listening to his words of wisdom. The film ends with his former students giving him a standing ovation in appreciation of the invaluable contribution he made to their lives. He made a difference.

There are countless ways of commemorating those who have demonstrated an outstanding level of excellence in a variety of disciplines. There is the Medal of Honor in the military, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes, the Oscar in film, and the summa cum laude designation in academia. After the recipients are long gone, their deeds survive them in future generations.

During an interview with Pope Francis, Argentinean journalist Juan Berretta asked how he would like to be remembered. The Pope answered, "I hope they say: 'He was a good guy who tried to do good.' I have no other aspiration." His use of the phrase, "good guy," illustrates his ability and willingness to communicate simply and unpretentiously in the language of the people.


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