The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
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Legacies and Visions


October 6, 2022

A thought came to me recently that some might call a moment of doubt, even dark.

However, that perception misses the mark.

Here is the question: What is your legacy? Maybe we can’t know until there’s a post-mortem assessment.

So maybe we need to reword the question a little. What are you known for, followed by what do you want to be known for? Pay attention to the change in time sequence. What are you known for is about the present state, what do you want to be known for implies a desire and a future review. Be more specific: how do you want your best friend to read your eulogy?

Quite honestly, if all you’re focused on is the postlude, the story is fiction, or all about the author. But is a proper eulogy, one worth a crowded church or public park, about the dearly departed or about what that person left behind?

Late last week, in my world, there was a kind of collision of time. There were people in Sidney who shared their successes and challenges in moving their hometowns into the future.

They talked about the business commitment, the partnerships between public and private sources and the involvement of each community.

Partner that with a friend who moved on to his next stage in life. Yes, one stage to the next, that stage we call death, that struggle of wanting to hold on but needing to let go.

When I met him, he was a quiet guy with a country gentleman sense of humor. He was known for his odd but deliberately misplaced words, his whimsical comedy that could happen at a moment’s notice.

He was also a former teacher, county commissioner, businessman and a steadfast family man until his last breath.

I’ve thought of his walk on this earth, and the legacy he left. He didn’t “burn down the town” physically or metaphorically. He was a man who valued people and relationships — relationships with people and with God — more than a garage full of toys.

His selection of careers and social activities tell much about his values in life. He didn’t just teach, he taught agriculture. Without skilled and passionate agriculturalists, our cities will dry up and grass will grow in our streets.

He treated every person he met as his favorite child or grandchild. His time as a county commissioner couldn’t have been easy. Local government seldom is. There will always be someone who does not agree, some who will aggressively disagree.

A real legacy isn’t a short story of “Look What I Did!” It is a recollection of what a person did to help his community and those who live in it. Likely, some of the people I met at the business meeting will be community changers that will be recalled in their eulogies. A legacy worth repeating is the result of living each day investing in people’s lives, working to be an agent of positive change. When people change, the community changes

It brings me back to the comment made many years ago by a doctor friend. We were talking about writing and dreaming big. He made a comment about if I wanted to be like a specific author.

“Well, maybe you’ll get it post-mortem” or something like that. For me, eulogies are spoken by other people. They are the postlude of a story written, and hopefully edited often. The legacy is the result of what we did with our lives, a story that lives on after we’re done writing.

For Dennis, he is done writing, and the countless people he influenced will recall his legacy. For those of us still walking this plane, we have time to leave a legacy worth telling.


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