we all leave one, whether we plan to or not. some are inspiring, some are regrettable; some are long-lasting, while others are fleeting…but eventually all that is left of a person on this earth is the legacy they leave behind. for some this lingering impression is farther-reaching because of fame or fortune or history-changing actions. but for most of us, the influence that lasts beyond our lifetime will extend only to our circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. and that legacy is just as significant.
i firmly believe in the importance of establishing an intentional family vision that includes many generations to come. but sometimes a wonderful heritage builds itself upon an exceptional character, growing stronger with the multiplication of descendants in each successive generation.
my great gidu (grandfather), haleem saddic, left that kind of legacy. his influence was strong enough that his children’s children’s children know what kind of man he was and how he lived his life, and have a strong sense of keeping that memory alive. since my earliest memory i’ve known the heritage of my close-knit extended family…and since gidu had 10 children, there are quite alot of them.
when i wrote my honors thesis on the american character, immigration at the turn of the 20th century, and oral histories, i focused on haleem’s story. i didn’t have to dig much for artifacts of his life. his descendants readily provided treasures like family trees, photos, newspaper articles, census reports, the ship manifest from his trip to the US, homemade maps of the old neighborhood (eight pages detailed), and plentiful nostalgic anecdotes.
my titu (grandmother) and her siblings shared vivid memories, but much of the documentation came from the younger generations, who consider it an important task to keep record of our family history and preserve the saddic legacy. a legacy that has been built on more than where gidu lived or what he did, but also the values and traditions he passed down.
visiting lebanon has been a lifelong dream for me, particularly the town of kousba, where my great gidu & great titu lived. a sort of pilgrimmage for us both, my cousin colette and i set out to visit the place where our family started. we ventured north from beirut along the mediterranean coastline and then inland, up through the mount lebanon range to the small village of kousba al koura on the qadisha valley. we stayed with our gidu’s nephew (our grandmothers’ cousin) who showed us a wonderful time.
george gave us a complete (very knowledgeable!) tour of the town, seemingly familiar with everyone we passed. with both my great grandfather and great grandmother’s families originating in kousba, a high percentage of the population is a distant relative in some way. george continually introduced the two mystery girls accompanying him as his uncle’s kids’ kids’ kids, often saying, “meet your cousins!”
we saw an amazing monastery built into the side of the cliff called hamatoura. the long, zig zag foot path is the only access. (the photo to the left was taken from across the valley, not from above. that is a steep walk. click on the pic to get a larger view if you can’t see the church)
my favorite part was visiting the olive oil factory just down the street from gidu’s old house. it still employs the old method of pressing the oil, and is quite possibly the very same factory that processed the olives from my great-grandfather’s orchard. the workers were so gracious to tolerate our paparazzi-like invasion of their workspace, most likely stunned by our enthusiasm to document the (to them) mundane process. the video below captures it pretty well.
this trip to lebanon has been life-changing for many reasons, but the visit to kousba in particular has got me thinking about the legacy i want to leave with the generations that follow me. i don’t have kids yet (or any impending) so it would be natural to think that lee and i have a little time to prepare ourselves. but much of what my family cherishes about my great gidu’s life, values, culture, and traditions were things that occurred long before he had children of his own.
what kind of legacy do you want to leave for your children’s children’s children? perhaps it’s a continuation of what was passed down to you. what can you do to be intentional about the impression that you leave?