Two weeks ago I was lucky to be able to duck over to the South Island of New Zealand to take advantage of a high pressure system creating some great climbing conditions in the Southern Alps. I arrived in Queenstown late in the afternoon and immediately went for a walk to stretch my legs in the botanic gardens. It’s a beautiful garden on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and as you can imagine it is very green and lush. It also happens to contain memorials to various influential Queenstown folk.
The first memorial I encountered was to William Rees, the earliest settler of the region. As I read the plaque I was struck by the impact he had had on his community, and it got me to thinking about the legacies that each of us as individuals leave behind. If you are ever struggling to identify your purpose in life, then I encourage you to undertake this simple exercise: think about the words or statement you would want to be written on your memorial once you’re gone. Having identified this, it can help to give your life context and clarity and serve as a guide by which to conduct yourself and to lead others.
The words don’t necessarily have to be prescriptive, and in fact sometimes it’s the simplest statements that say the most. A few minutes later I stumbled across another memorial in the gardens – this time to local mountaineering guide Andy Harris. Andy was lost somewhere up near the South Summit on Mount Everest in 1996, trying to rescue fellow climbers on a disastrous summit day in which eight climbers lost their lives. The South Summit is at 8,750m and signals the start of some of the most dangerous terrain on Earth – the final knife edge summit ridge of Everest. It’s a scary and lonely enough place to be in fine weather, let alone in deteriorating conditions with nightfall not far away. And yet, Andy went back up to help others out.
That’s how I’d want to be remembered – being in the service of others in need.
How about you – how do you want to be remembered?