What Will You Leave Behind When You Die?

25, Mentors: Jeremy Rice, Miguel de Unamuno, George Burns, Brendon Burchard, Wayne Dyer

You can’t take it with you

I have a padlock and a key. They belong to Jeremy Rice. Last year he left town for a few months for medical procedures. I found out that he was paying a chunk of money to a storage facility to keep his stuff safe when he was gone so asked for the key so I could store his things. I returned his stuff, but forgot to return the lock.

Collect Moments, Not Things

At the end of last year I fully expected that Jeremy would return from multi-organ transplant surgery in Omaha. However, he passed away on January 3rd. Currently his family is sorting through his things because he couldn’t take them with him. Those things are only reminders of all of the moments he lived. His most recent Facebook cover photo reads, “Collect Moments, Not Things.”

Yearning to live forever, Miguel de Unamuno

Spanish author and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno was obsessed with the tragic thought that he might cease to exist when he died. With this in mind, his life goal was to leave something of himself behind, in the mortal world that he knew. He served for many years as rector of the University of Salamanca. Through writings and teachings he went out of the way to influence countless individuals and institutions during his life of seventy two years.

His wish was that remnants of his life would continue indefinitely among humanity. He was phenomenally successful in his quest. An online browser search instantly brings up nearly a half a million hits. His life was carefully documented. Scholars and casual readers continue to study his life and works. In some form you have been and will be influenced by him, whether you have heard of him or not.

A comedian’s influence

Out of obscurity, Nathan Birnbaum was born in 1896 to Jewish immigrants from Poland. At age fifteen, he worked making syrup in a candy factory. Nathan and his friends found that singing and harmonizing took the edge off of their boring work and he was “discovered’ by someone walking past the factory. He later took on the name George Burns. A famous comedian, actor, writer and singer, he continued to work and impact lives up until his death in 1996. The work of George Burns is also well documented and accessible.

Many more thousands of other notorious people left records and a legacy that impacts the world today. George Burns left something of himself in this world. In an instant you can hear his voice and his life can appear on your computer screen.

The life and death of Jeremy Rice

Jeremy was not a famous author, was not a television star, a politician or executive. Yet, in his own way he changed the world. Just like each of us, he passed through and overcame struggles, enduring through the things he couldn’t control. He was teased for being a seriously large kid; he lost weight and learned to run to spruce up his image. Asking a runner to teach him, he was told by that runner and the coaches that he didn’t have the talent, that he should pick another sport. Determined, he learned to run anyway and later became captain of his school’s varsity track team.

He then got into bodybuilding and became an expert in nutrition, biochemistry and bio-mechanics. He developed an ominous physical form that was an inspiration to many. His main goal was to learn so that he could teach others by example and in action. I miss hearing him yell across the gym when I wasn’t using proper form or technique on an exercise. What he lacked in tact was certainly compensated for by his love and desire to teach me.

Though accustomed to dealing with health issues as a child, Jeremy was hit hard at around age twenty two. His body was overwhelmed by a series of devastating infections. Fortunately the muscle mass that he gained in the gym saved him from a rapid demise. In about six months he lost eighty pounds of muscle weight to the illness. The infections destroyed his colon, sacrificed his small intestine and ravaged his liver. He overcame the odds of dying on several occasions, surprising his surgeons. While in this fight, he continued to prepare for medical school even though his condition rarely permitted him to able to sleep more than an hour at a time. Though in pain, he was inherently generous and continued to reach out with advice and support to everyone around him.

He recognized his imperfections and sought out mentors to guide and support him right to the end. And while honing his own life skills, he continued to mentor and teach others, leaving a legacy in the many lives he impacted.

A few weeks before his death, I saw him at the gym, gaunt and extremely jaundiced, encompassed by numerous tubes and medical devices. He was very optimistic, awaiting a multi-organ transplant donor. Weeks later, following surgery, the transplant appeared to be successful. But another infection and other complications soon followed to the ultimate demise of his body.

Fulfilling our purpose

I pondered over why his suffering in his battle was prolonged for such a long time. Though he has passed on, he is an integral part of who I am. I believe that he also carries a part of me with him into the eternities. With these feelings I thought of the oft spoken inspiring questions posed by Brendon Burchard when he had a near death experience, “Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?

Jeremy had dreams and was preparing for a future wife and family, and of being a physician who would develop new life saving techniques. He fought hard to overcome the odds that he wouldn’t survive. He finally had to give in as he struggled for his last breaths.

He lived, right to the very end. When he received the call that donor organs were available, he was slightly delayed because he was out hiking with a friend.

He loved his friends and family, demonstrated by his willingness to uplift and to serve even when in pain and with serious needs. People from around the world have been following his story online. He expressed concern over the smallest of my problems, while under the weight of unbearable challenges of his own.

He mattered because of the imprint that he left on the lives of countless people throughout the world, many of whom he had never met.

In his work, The Ten Secrets to Success and Inner Peace, Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Don’t die with the music still in you.” What did Jeremy give during nearly three years of painfully fighting for his life? It is evident that he lived, loved, and mattered. Being true to himself, he expressed his music; the rest of us continue to hear it. Replicating the yearnings of Miguel de Unamuno, he continues to live, to love, and to matter.

His lessons of love, gratitude and perseverance continue to impact the universe.

Anonymous Influence

What of the “anonymous” person whose name is never spoken after just two or three generations? Though forgotten, their influence continues indefinitely. Those men and women certainly influenced their children and grandchildren, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and associates. They participated in community events, randomly met at the post office or at the market. They may have fought over property lines or irrigation water. They comforted others in their tragedy, responded to fire, floods, and illness.

Every encounter has unending potential. We are all a part of an interactive universe. We are all connected in multiple ways and continue to influence one another, even after we die.

What will you leave behind when you die?

You and I will leave behind the same influence we leave today and that we left yesterday and that we will tomorrow. Life is a collection of interconnected moments that live on forever. As we continue to build on our trials and imperfections, each of us is an essential part of the human experience.

Cover Photo, Jeremy Rice

Having been on the frontlines, I’m deeply familiar with life’s challenges and traumas. I’m inspired by courageous people who triumph and succeed.