There’s been so much loss lately. I quickly did a mathematical equation that left me startled: I had time left, but the time I have needs to be spent in lighting fires of change and inspiration. I knew this months ago, but it seems, the universe keeps reminding me of my legacy through the obituaries of others. Actor and director Richard Attenborough passed away at the age of 90 last week. When I read the short announcement of Mr. Attenborough’s passing, I knew the world had lost another brilliant individual, but I also pondered the man not in the limelight. If his brilliance behind and in front of the camera indicated anything, it told me that there was so much more to discover about this great man.
Many knew him for his acting role in ‘Jurassic Park’ and his Academy award-winning role as director for the film ‘Gandhi.’ His talents in the cinema arts were unparalleled but he possessed the profound mentality that art isn’t a club dedicated to the elite. “Art is for everyone,” he was once quoted saying.
Such a humble attitude provokes one to ponder about the other qualities and quirks that made up Attenborough. Was he a morning person? Did he enjoy waking up early to read the newspaper with a cup or two of coffee? Did he prefer dogs over cats? Did he like animals at all? Perhaps he was a wizard at chess. When someone dies, especially a person of Attenborough’s stature, we are quick to often remember what one is most recognized for. While there should be no shame in recognizing Attenborough’s great contributions to ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Gandhi,’ a life is so much more than a career.
A legacy doesn’t need to be grandiose or extravagant. In fact, it’s far too complex to be packed into one or two sentences. A legacy can be something as simple as the hat Attenborough wore every day or the way he preferred his coffee. The truth of the matter is that life is not a simple path from point A to point B; it weaves and curves and winds.
It seems that Richard Attenborough was lucky enough to find his passion. Many search their whole lives to find the things that ignite a flame within their hearts, but Attenborough didn’t have to. “Cinema is what I love. I’m not a great movie director. I’m not an auteur. I’m a storyteller. I’m a craftsman and I love more than anything else working with the actors and finding a way to make the actor believe that what he or she is about to do is the best performance they’ve ever given,” Attenborough once said of his passion for directing. Perhaps the saddest truth is that so many will never know that what Attenborough truly loved was seeing others succeed. It’s quite possible that the greatest joy he ever experienced wasn’t when he accepted his Academy Award for Best Director, but when he witnessed his actors experience their own success.
In the greater scheme, what becomes symbolic of a life are the “little” things. “He never cries but ‘Good Will Hunting’ always made him tear up,” perhaps a family member would say of Attenborough. “He’d been everywhere but his favorite place in the entire world was his leather chair overlooking the ocean,” another might say.
What should be realized, first and foremost, is that we are so much more than what we choose to reveal to the world. Others see our triumphs and our failures but what they do not see is everything in between. While it may seem unrealistic to expect others to remember the small things, it does not hurt to try. We are vulnerable, fragile, strong, dynamic, and sensitive all at once. We get swept up in the beauty of art just as easily as we get swept into the 7th game of the World Series. We are thoughts, our actions, our dreams, and our disappointments. We love the advancements of technology but we also crave the days where we can unplug. In essence, there is no possible way for even a single person’s being to be chalked up to solely a “director” or “movie star.”
A legacy spans a lifetime – every year, every month, every day, every moment.
Just as a puzzle is not complete without each piece, a human being is not complete without every tiny fragment, no matter how seemingly small. What Foreverence believes, and prides itself on, is that we are the sum of all of our parts, not just the glittering parts. When working with Foreverence to create the most profound tribute to a loved one, try to remember the small moments. Remember how she loved to knit or how he finished his Christmas shopping every July because he just couldn’t wait.
Although most of us will never have the pleasure of knowing how Richard Attenborough took his coffee or if he even liked it, it does no harm in imagining him sipping a steaming black cup of coffee in his favorite leather chair overlooking the ocean.
A catalyst for new ideas to drive business growth, Pete Saari co-founded Foreverence to bring creativity and innovation to the funeral services market. With a background in management, sales leadership and business ownership, he’s worked in large corporate environments as well as startups, early stage ventures and turnarounds across multiple industries. Pete volunteers his time with Big Brothers/Big Sisters program as well as Habitat for Humanity. He believes the true measure of a life is more than the human eye could ever see.