What does it mean to “leave a legacy”?

Jana Jensen | Affiliated Fund Development Coordinator

Originally published in the April/May 2021 issue of Nebraska Cattleman Magazine. 

When I lost my father five years ago from a sudden heart attack, I wondered, “what kind of a legacy Dad would have wanted to leave?” Then I thought to myself, my Dad left my two siblings and me with a sense of responsibility to carry on, a strong work ethic and love of the land. He grew up with the belief that you must leave the land in better shape than when you were handed the reins – and my siblings and I carry on that belief. My children will be the fifth generation on our family’s ranch and I trust we have passed that belief forward to them. The legacy that my father learned from his parents and grandparents is being instilled with future generations.

What does it mean to leave a legacy? It means putting a stamp on the future and making a contribution to future generations. People leave a legacy to know that their life mattered. Gaining clarity on what you want your legacy to be can give your life meaning and purpose.

A legacy is something we leave behind after we are gone. A legacy can be comprised of the intangible memories and feelings people hold for someone. Many times, a teacher or coach leaves a legacy of a skill, attitude or way of thinking. And a legacy can also take the form of a bequest or donation directed to something specific.

A legacy can be left as a future gift in your will to support something that is near and dear to your heart. Perhaps you have always loved and supported the FFA program at your school, so in your will you leave a gift to support the FFA programs and projects in your school.

You don’t have to be famous to leave a legacy. Just ask yourself: who left a lasting influence on my life? Whoever that person was, they left a legacy that affected you and others.

I think of individuals like R. B. Warren. He left an impression – he left a legacy with his students and livestock judgers all across this nation. We all chuckle, but the man made an impact on his students at the University of Nebraska in one form or another and many others. A fund was established to honor his legacy by faculty members and former students at UNL. I was never a student of R.B.’s, but I listened to him justify his placings at many 4-H and FFA livestock judging events through the years. And I was one of the many that had to give reasons to the man and hoped he wouldn’t spit on my boots during my reasons. He left an impression!

To leave a legacy means to leave the places you go and the people you meet a little better than you found them.

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