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It’s midnight, the night of Super Bowl 48, and seemingly the only thing people are talking about is legacy.  Some people, like Russell Wilson have just begun carving it out, others like Peyton Manning are seeing his change, and others, like Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was found dead earlier today,

My father's house today, courtesy of Google Earth
My father’s house today, courtesy of Google Earth

are now nothing more than a legacy.  Yet, I think about the three people aforementioned, and I can’t help but think about my own legacy.  My biggest fear in life is to be forgotten; to make such a small impact on the people and things around me, that my life ends when I breathe my last breath.  That, to me, is what it means to die alone.  You see, 25 years ago today, in a small ranch home a few miles from where I lived with my mother, my father took his own life.  He died alone in that small blue home he rented on Redwood Avenue, in Wayne, New Jersey.

My father died alone, not because he was depressed (although he was), not because he was alcoholic (even though he became one), and definitely not because of drug use (which only came about later in life); my father died alone because he made no impact.  Unlike someone like Philip Seymour Hoffman, who’s impact personally and professionally, stretched beyond the people he knew to total strangers, my father’s impact, could barely be felt by his own son.  If I’m truly honest with you, the two most impactful days in my father’s life, with respect to me, was the day he took me to Yankee Stadium and the day he took his life.  I wish I could say more of his impact on me, because he wasn’t a bad father, but he just wasn’t really much of a father for the 7 years we shared this earth together.  From what I’ve heard, he wasn’t really any different as a brother, a son, a friend, or a professional.  He was just a person who, for lack of a better term, simply existed.  Just a person that you wait in line behind to get coffee every morning, and yet never even really recognize them from the day before.

Since the day my Dad died, 25 years ago today, the only thing I’ve ever felt is motivation to not end up like him.  It’s not about money or fame or even success, it’s about legacy.  My father died, and he was almost immediately forgotten.  I refuse to let that happen to me.  If I become famous or rich or successful, it will mean nothing if it doesn’t have a value that extends beyond my own personal gain.  I want to build something that, even if no one knows I built it, has significance 407282_722742286596_804084011_nlong after I die.  I want to make an impact on the people around me to the point where, in some small way, they are truly better for knowing me.  I want to make something of myself, so that the people who’ve left their legacy in me, live on as well.  I am motivated to be anything and everything my father never was.

People ask me sometimes, “Why do you think you’re so important that people want to read all of your personal thoughts and opinions on everything?”  The truth is I am both writing for you and for myself.  If you take something from my writing, great, but even if no one read my ramblings, I would write them all the same.  I didn’t write this story because I wanted sympathy, anyone who knows me in the slightest knows that I do not think my life was tough by any means.  I wrote this piece because I want people to understand what motivates me.  Also, because, after one of the more difficult years of my life, I want to remind myself of my own motivation.  The 25 years of motivation that’s made me who I am.

I have not as of yet accomplished my goal of building a legacy.  My impact, to this point in my life, has been small, and I am fine with that… for now.   But I’m not done writing my story, and I won’t allow the fact that I haven’t succeeded yet drag me down.  I won’t seek refuge in self-pity or alcohol or drugs.  I will succeed in making an impact on the world around me.  I will be more than my father, and if nothing else, my legacy will be that I never quit.  Even if he doesn’t deserve one, maybe my father’s legacy will be the small part he played in motivating me.

25 years and counting.


3 thoughts

  1. Hi Ben. I love your writing, self awareness and belief in the value of life. I too believe in my life having meaning – that when I leave this Earth, I did something that made the world a little bit better of a place. I work for an alternative school where kids come who are not accepted in their own schools because they are different. Most do not have what others do and some are homeless. One day just maybe one of them will say “this lady once told me I could do anything, told me she cared and my life mattered just as much as hers”. I’m planning on starting a home for these homeless kids so that they can finish high school, have a safe place to live and good start in life – instead of worrying about where they were going to sleep that night.

    Ben, I hope we can meet one day. I’m married to your Uncle Steve and my name is Rhonda.

    1. Rhonda – That’s an amazing thing you’re doing. My little brother went to a school like that after going through a lot of personal struggle (not his fault) when he was really young. Schools like that, and more importantly the people who work at them, make a huge impact on the lives of these kids. I’ve always felt that in the lives of troubled kids, teachers can have the biggest impact (more than family and/or friends) because they have the ability to show that someone can care about your success and instill belief, even though they have no obligation to do either. I wish you all the luck in the world in continuing to do the work you’re doing. Maybe we will meet one day, and it seems the kids you’ve raised together are really amazing so I wish them all the best as well.

      1. I was really glad to hear back from you. I love my job – but I don’t look at it as a job – it is who I am as a person. I hope everything worked out for your brother. Yes, I have great kids. I’ve always believed that my son Brandon has made me a better person. He has struggled his whole life because of his disability and I have fought right by his side trying to make his life a little better every day. He’s such a fine young man and I couldn’t be prouder of him. And Amanda. She is my best friend and we are very close. We just got back from a trip to the Bahamas together. She is so full of life and brings me great joy. I would love for you to meet them. I know they would love to meet you.

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