The Legacy at the End of the Day

The Legacy at the End of the Day

I ended a recent blog entry with the following thought:

Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about the legacy we will leave behind when we’re dead and gone that we don’t think about what we’ll leave behind at the end of the day.

I’ve been thinking about legacy quite a bit this past week. In a week’s time, three people I’ve known died.

The Old Man at the Juggling Club

I met Kumar Pallana at the Dallas Jugglers’ Association in the late 80s. Because I always wanted to learn a bit of everything, I was drawn to the older guy who appeared one day at the club with plates. He taught me how to flip them around my body, how to time things just right to move them around tabletops while they flopped and wobbled their way around, and even how to spin them on sticks. This was the kind of thing I saw as a kid growing up, and there I was…thanks to this quiet man at the Dallas Jugglers’ Association, I was doing things I never imagined doing. Every week, I looked forward to seeing Kumar; it meant a lot to me that he liked the way I juggled.

Kumar died on October 10. It would be easy to say his legacy is being “that quirky guy in Wes Anderson movies,” or even in the variety acts he did earlier in his career. I’ll remember him as the kind man who taught me cool things at the Dallas juggling club, the guy who smiled while watching me juggle…the guy who said, “That’s really good,” while nodding to let you know when you got things right. Everyone who met Kumar talked about how kind he was.

He was all that, and so much more (the story of his life is pretty damn cool). That’s what makes up a legacy.

The Rituals of Kumar Pallana from Dark Rye on Vimeo.


I sat next to B at the first office job I had where I wasn’t on the phone. He was quiet — even standoffish to many. We chatted in the mornings; I found out things about him and built on that. Sometimes he’d try talking sports with me, but I don’t really follow sports, so I’d nod and listen.

One Tuesday morning, he said, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.”

We figured it had to be a small plane and no terribly big deal, but still — the two of us got up and went to the break room to check out what was up on television. Obviously, it was much more than a small plane that hit the North Tower.

When the second plane hit, B said, “I do believe we’re under attack…”

On October 15, B went into his garage, sat in his car, put a shotgun in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. In a Facebook post left before doing what he did, he made it clear to all that the legacy [to some] he left behind that day was 30+ years in the making…


On October 11, my brother-in-law William sat in his car and shot himself dead. Two suicides in less than a week.

Not long after reading the news about Kumar dying, we got the call that William was dead.

He also left behind a legacy…

The Legacy at the End of the Day

Some of us live 94 years of adventure before collapsing on the way to a bridge game, leaving a life of travel and a certain degree of fame behind
. The story of Kumar Pallana’s life is worth repeating, but it was in Kumar’s daily routines — routines not too much different than we all do — where much of his legacy lies. It was in routine things that Kumar found a foundation that allowed him to do cool things that he would share with anyone willing to join in the routine.

It would be a shame to see B’s and William’s legacies defined by their final actions at the end of their days…the end of their lives. Many people see suicide as an act of weakness, but there takes a certain strength to go on — at least in B’s case — for over 30 years when something in your head repeatedly tells you, “Stop!”

I don’t know how long William found strength to go on, but the decision to end one’s own life is rarely a sudden thing.

Everyday Strength

It’s easy to look at everyday life and want something more: adventure instead of traffic; an exciting dream job instead of sitting in a cubicle or standing all day in a warehouse or factory. From a young age, many of us are told we can be anything we want to be when we grow up, and that’s not always true. The likelihood of me writing fiction full time is slim; a majority of kids playing sports and dreaming of the day they play professionally will never see that dream come true.

So there takes, for many, a certain everyday strength to go on. Some, like Kumar, find cool things along the way and make it their lives. But most people, as much as we like to believe all dreams come true as long as we put in the effort, never see those big dreams realized.

Every Day, Strength

I’ve juggled for over 32 years at the time of writing this. At the time of writing this, I have lived over 44 years. I first thought about ending my own life when I was 6. I last thought of it shortly before my 40th birthday. I am not Kumar or B or William, but I know a thing or two about the routine that allows one to juggle well. I know a thing or two about the routine of waking up and moving forward even when you don’t want to.

There is no shame in any of the legacies the three men I’ve written about have left behind. I’m sure if present and asked, all three men would say the best thing they left behind were their children.

Every day, until the end, there was a certain strength that carried them all through — until the day came where they left so much behind. I don’t know what my legacy will be when I’m gone, but I know that so much of it will come from what I do with everyday things…

Speak Your Mind