All You Leave is Your Impact

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“All you leave is your impact.” That was the thought that lifted me out of a pool of tears and snot yesterday afternoon as I left the hospital having said goodbye to my dear client and friend, Elaine Childs Gowell, She’d just suffered a massive stroke and I knew it would be the very last time I’d see her alive, If you could call a coma ‘living’.

Had it been anyone else, I would have used the words ‘final farewell’ but I knew that there was nothing final about anything Elaine had ever done. Her loving kindness, empathic spirit, good sense and deep compassion would stay with me until the moment it was me lying in some bed somewhere with any of my unused potential puddled about me.

Elaine is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who wrote several books (grief issues for adults), has traveled the world teaching (healing and shamanism) and has a bunch of initials trailing her name. Watching her lying there with her life force replaced by a morphine drip, I realized that more than the books and articles she wrote or the seminars and speeches she gave, what she’d really leave behind was her passion for people and the impact that had. That was all and it was plenty.

When it’s our time, few will remember what we did or how we did it. What will stay with them is how they felt when they were with us and maybe what they felt when they thought about us. The indelible print is how someone or something made us feel about ourselves—what emotional taste an experience left in our mouths. Somehow the details that caused the dread or delirium fade to the background and all that is left how it impacted us in that moment, and how it carries forth to this day.

I don’t remember what Mrs. Claire Tornay taught me in fourth grade, but I do remember that she went to the wall in her belief in me—that she was the first person ever to tell me I was really smart and that I could do anything I set my mind to—and the doors opened by those feelings she stirred.

I’d suggest that maybe that’s what all this talk about passion is really all about. We want the feeling. We need the feeling. And nowadays many of us are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure it counts because we know, deep in our souls, that when it’s all over all you leave is your impact.

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