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The When I’m gone poem is one of those poems that stick with you after you read it, since it touches the essentials of life. It’s about what’s being left when we are gone. Let me not reveal too much of the poem itself, so enjoy the read and let me know what you think in the comment section below.
When I’m gone,
Don’t just give me to the earth.
I loved the wind and the sky, too.
I fell under the spell of fire, hissing at me to partake of its secret knowledge.
On bright days I skimmed the surface of the sea; on darker ones I plunged far, far below.
Feed me to the elements.
I hope you’ll cry a little, not because I’m no longer here,
But because I once was,
And perhaps something I said or did
Deflected you from a hurtful path
Or kept you going down the right road when you felt alone.
Don’t bring flowers.
Don’t bring food.
If you spot an injustice, however slight, correct it.
I’ll feel it like a kiss.
When I’m gone
Know that I loved life wildly and deeply,
Until it broke open my heart
And spread like wind-blown seeds,
Falling sometimes on barren ground
And sometimes, somehow took root in Paradise.
When I’m gone
You will still see me
If you look out of the corner of your eye a certain way.
You will still hear me if you catch a hint of laughter
Amid wailing and lamentation.
The earth’s supply of beauty is diminishing.
Add to it what you can and say
I do this in memory of my friend, my loved one.
I do it so that his light remains between two worlds.
Author of the When I’m Gone poem: Mosiah Lyman Hancock.
I think the When I’m Gone poem by Mosiah Lyman Hancock is a beautiful one because it urges relatives to remember primarily the person’s virtues and achievements, instead of someone’s mistakes or the physical loss of the person.
In some ways, the poem is also about legacy. As it is easy to be caught up in our day to day lives and be focused on the tasks that will lead us to better positions, careers and financial lives, we might forget from time to time that legacy can be found in other, more subtle moments.
As many people think legacy equals our positions, careers or the change we seek to make to the world around us, those things are often not the things that stick with people. People are more likely to remember things that caused them feelings. It might be offering your colleague a listening ear, doing groceries for your elderly neighbor, or letting people know that you see them for who they truly are. Those are little gestures and small gifts and it’s what I call true legacy and you can start with it right away, no matter where you’re from.
We are so much more than our resumes and when people close to us die, it’s devastating. However, in many cultures a funeral isn’t about the physical loss of the person itself, or about being sad for the fact you’ll never see that person again. In many cultures it’s about paying attention to what’s left – the memories of that person that will forever live through us and within us. The value celebrated in our eulogies, like how much we meant to our family, the things that made is laugh and the small kindnesses that you have given others when the lights were off and no one else was paying attention.
Let me know in the comment section below how you define legacy and how you would measure it. I’m happy to hear from you.