Now, unless someone invents the cure for mortality, we all have the same first and last chapter. What makes up the story of our lives and the legacy that we will leave behind are the pages in between. Now for me, serious thoughts about legacy have little to do with famous stories, books or movies. It has everything to do with these two little girls, although I guess I can’t really call them little any more. Heather’s now 16 and Christiana is nine. Both their lives had a rocky start. And I know they’ll each have their own adversities to overcome.
But I want to empower them to stay on their own true paths, even when the walking becomes rough. What I have to teach them, what I have to show them through my own actions, is that their DNA will not define them.
In closing, I’d like to read a short excerpt from “Into the Wild,” where Jon Krakauer describes one of the last things Chris does before he dies. “He tore the final page from Louis L’Amour’s memoir, ‘Education of a Wandering Man.’ On one side of the page were some lines L’Amour had quoted from Robinson Jeffers’ poem, ‘Wise Men in Their Bad Hours.’
‘Death’s a fierce meadowlark: but to die having made
Something more equal to the centuries
Than muscle and bone, is mostly to shed weakness.
The mountains are dead stone,
the people Admire or hate their stature,
their insolent quietness,
The mountains are not softened or troubled
And a few dead men’s thoughts have the same temper.’
On the other side of the page, which was blank McCandless penned a brief adios: ‘I’ve had a happy life, and thank the lord. Good bye, and may God bless all.'” Jon Krakauer continues, “One of his last acts was to take a picture of himself standing near the bus under the high Alaska sky, one hand holding his final note toward the camera lens, the other raised in a brave beatific farewell. His face is horribly emaciated, almost skeletal.
But if he pitied himself in those last difficult hours, because he was so young, because he was alone, because his body had betrayed him and his will had let him down, it’s not apparent from the photograph. He is smiling in the picture, and there is no mistaking the look in his eyes. Chris McCandless was at peace, serene as a monk, gone to God.”
Now, it’s impossible for me to look at that picture Jon talks about without crying, but in a way it’s a good pain. I know that Chris died at peace because of the paths that he had chosen in life that kept him true to himself. And in the end, whenever that end comes, isn’t that the best that any of us can hope for? Chris achieved eternal life certainly through the written pages of “Into the Wild,” but more importantly, through his own faith. He loved life more than anyone I have ever known, and he wanted to have a long one, but his main concern was that it be purposeful.
My brother’s story is globally known, not because he died, but because he truly lived. And he lives on in the lessons.
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