Even better than leaving a legacy
When we think of legacy, we think about what we will leave behind when we die. The way others will think about us, the values we embody and hope to instill in others. In the estate planning context, legacy is defined as a gift of money or other property when we die.
Most of us want to leave a legacy for those we love, and that’s a worthy goal. The only thing better than leaving a legacy is to truly live one, and that’s what one remarkable man did over the last 43 years.
The youngest of three brothers, he was raised in the manufacturing town of Anderson, SC. His mother was a nurse and his father worked multiple jobs, including the night shift. Hard work defined the family that raised him as much as it eventually defined him.
In high school he was focused on basketball until his friend and teammate was shot and killed, turning him toward storytelling as a way to process the tragedy. He wrote a play, then attended Howard University where he studied the arts.
Success didn’t come easily to Chadwick Boseman. At 27 he landed a role on a soap opera, but lost his job after two episodes when he questioned the stereotypical life of his character, a young black man. He was fired for his questions, and it took him years to find work again. When he did, his acting skills and leadership brought him more respect than most actors of this generation.
He was secretly journeying with colon cancer for the last four years of his life, but that didn’t stop him from working hard nor from generously spending his time encouraging children with cancer. After playing Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall, he was chosen for the role that would truly change things, for him and for so many others: King T’Challa in Black Panther.
After at least 17 white superheroes on the big screen, black children finally had a superhero role model who looked like them. But King T’Challa wasn’t just a hero for black children, he was a hero for all of us.
Chadwick Boseman’s death at age 43 shook the world for the people who loved him and millions of inspired fans. By all accounts he was deeply kind, gentle, thoughtful. graceful. Fiercely courageous in the face of adversity. He was a great, gracious, and humble leader.
And he wasn’t just kind, he was committed to justice and purpose. He stood up for what he believed in, even when it cost him his livelihood.
Chadwick Boseman was a bright light, a hero even bigger than King T’Challa. Yes, he will leave a legacy for generations to come. That legacy comes not from anything he leaves behind, but from the way he lived his life. He showed us all what’s possible in life when we combine purpose with grace.
Fulfilling your own dreams, encouraging others through their seasons of hardship, and inspiring others to become their very best selves. That’s a beautiful illustration of a life well lived.