When Life is Done, Light Carries On

This past week brought news of the deaths of two key figures in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Ironically, Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian both died on July 17th after dedicating their lives to pursuing civil rights for Black Americans.

Both were men of faith, connected to and influenced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Their approach focused on nonviolence, though both were arrested and beaten multiple times while standing up for what they believed–all men are created equal. These men lived out what they believed and suffered terribly for it at times.

The irony of their passing on the same day is not lost on me. In an age of selfish political posturing and cheap platitudes, Mr. Lewis and Rev. Vivan leave behind rich legacies built on substance. They were men of their word and men of action. Hard-won victories and disappointing setbacks were woven together into the fabric of their lives, inextricably intertwined. Their lives leave me breathless and amazed.

Photo Cred: Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press and (via Omega Psi Phi on Twitter)

A life can either generate light to guide the way for others once a person is gone, or it can leave behind darkness and a legacy of pain. When thinking about the lives of Lewis and Vivian, I feel a deep conviction to make my own life count for good. I want to be a blessing and send forth light long after I am gone. In the span of all eternity, life on this sphere is short.

Sacrifice and commitment to truth and love are required of us. Let us not shy away from doing hard things in order to leave a legacy of light. Let us not be so haughty to shun doing lowly things either. Hard things and lowly, large things and small–all of it matters.

Robust lives on the national and international stage are not the only ones able to produce and send forth light. Lives like my Grandmom and Pop radiate light even now, years after their passing. They were hardworking Christian people who showed love and kindness to everyone. Their quiet lives of faith and unconditional love are foundational stones upon which I’ve built my own life.

Every single life has the potential to generate light to share with future generations.

Small kindnesses and worldwide movements interlock to bring about good and foster hope in this world. Neither is better than the other. Each life well-lived flows to the same endpoint–the future. My prayer is to someday leave a legacy of light, whether it be that of a single candle, a thousand suns, or something in between. Whether I impact a few people or millions, may it be for the good. Rest in Peace, Mr. Lewis, Rev. Vivan, Grandmom, and Pop. Your earthly work is done, and your light goes on.

With Love and Gratitude,

Tracy is a New Jersey writer who loves Earl Grey tea, spending time outside, and painting. She lives with her husband and children in a home where birdsong and rainstorms provide the soundtrack for her creative life.


  • Renee Fusco

    Well-said Tracy! I know you’ve touched many people in many ways in the time you’ve been on this planet – your family, your students, your friends – and me. You are a light in this world, and I am also one who strives to emulate these great leaders who have moved on from the physical world but leave a legacy of progress for human dignity in our country. So now we all must carry the torch and take action for further change.

  • Peggy Booher

    Thank you, Tracy, for the encouraging words that any amount of light, is important and needed. A person may not be able to leave a legacy of “a thousand suns”, but anyone can leave the legacy of a “light of a candle”.

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