One of the reasons anyone writes a book — any book — is to leave a legacy.
We authors have egos like that, assuming that whatever it is we have to say will be worth hearing in the future. So we write books. Not notes. Not emails. Not mere memos or serious reports. Books.
I’ve already instructed my husband to hire an editor in the event of my death to comb through my computer and blog entries and self-publish a book of my previously unpublished works. Because people will care. I have important stuff to say. If I die prematurely, I want people to see that important stuff.
He’s humoring me. My wishes have been duly recorded in our handwritten will that needs to be legalized. At some point.
The advent of ebooks muddies the legacy waters. Will people read an electronic version of “The Percussionist’s Wife” someday and know my story? Or will digital traces of my life dissolve into so much sand in the wind?
When I think of the legacies of individuals who lived centuries ago — the ones who no longer have loved ones mourning them or descendants who remember them — I think of the residents of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city that has obsessed archeologists for decades. The population was buried in yards of volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius suddenly erupted in 79 AD, and the destruction actually preserved a moment in history in extraordinary detail. Now, two centuries later, we know the exact position in which a resident of Pompeii died, even the expression on his face.
If a volcano dropped its load on my town this instant, what would future archeologists learn about me and the life I lived? They might find an inordinate number of kitchen gadgets but they probably wouldn’t know I always make basic salads with four ingredients (romaine, green onion, cucumber and cherry tomato). They might be able to figure out I lived in a house with four bathrooms and three televisions, but they wouldn’t know the ineffectiveness of my wrinkle cream or that I’m hooked on reality TV right now. They actually might be able to read the books on my bookshelves (including five years of diaries from high school), but they almost certainly wouldn’t be able to read my blog.
All of us, writers or not, must be content with legacies of something less than two centuries. When I’m gone, traces of me will exist in the people who know me, and a few of those traces will rub off on the people who know them. Like ripples in the pond that eventually fade.