I WORK in the field of ‘legacy’. That has meant engaging with the effects of negative and pernicious policies of death and destruction in the context of conflict.
While we sometimes appreciate the incredible resilience of those affected by our conflict and the enormous contribution they make to our society, the concept of legacy can be very negative, coming as it does from the worst of man’s and woman’s inhumanity to each other.
But legacy can be so different. Did you see the photographs from Killea, Donegal of the forest planted by Darren Scheaffar?
This man, a forester, planted a forest a number of years ago. I don’t know how many years ago, but it is a good while. Within the forest he planted mainly ever-green dark trees and he also planted thousands of deciduous trees in a formation to make a Celtic cross.
From the sky today, after these trees matured and the leaves start to turn, there is the most magnificent Celtic cross to behold, miraculous in form.
Tragically, Darren didn’t get to see his miracle. He died from the effects of an accident at the young age of 51.
His wife and children are his main legacy, of course. But he also leaves another. His vision and attention and care has left behind something so beautiful and awe-inspiring for the first time in my life I might be tempted to take a helicopter ride to see it. Well, actually, maybe not. I’m a wimp. The photographs are probably enough. But the fact I have even thought about it tells you just how I was touched.
To merge together the beauty of the seasons, our indigenous trees and our landscape to send a message of hope and endurance at this time of uncertainty is quite a legacy from a life cut short. I watched an interview with his wife – she was rightly very proud of him.
Darren did it all without a fanfare and just got on with the work of connection and creation. And maybe he wasn’t sure that it would all work the way he had thought it would. All kinds of things might have gone wrong. But the thing is, he did it anyway.
What a lesson to us all. Of course we can’t all create an eighth wonder of the world the way Darren did (although actually I have full confidence that there are people reading this now who definitely could if they chose to). But we can decide to make a difference. To do something that leaves a positive legacy, not only after we die, as we all will, but now in the present. A legacy that captures a moonbeam of hope, a nudge of encouragement or a delight of surprise.
We are rarely encouraged to go beyond our safety nets, take a chance or try to do the extraordinary. All kinds of things prevent us. Fear of failure and self-doubt at the top of the list. But Darren lived with all of those doubts and doubters too. And he went and did it anyway.
It’s the Celtic New Year this week. Maybe Darren’s Celtic cross is a beautiful sign to us to think about a fresh positive approach, and take a chance.
We might just write a new legacy.