August 22nd, the time is about 12:30 p.m. I am sitting front row at my father’s funeral. The most memorable part of every black funeral are the reflections. “Please only one minute per person” it says in the program, but everyone who speaks goes well over a minute (to no surprise). As the reflections come from the pulpit, it is then followed by the family of the deceased and then the friends. As I go up to the podium to read a poem I wrote for my dad on Father’s Day a while back; I then reflect on how thankful I am to have had him in my life. How grateful I am that he instilled everything in me to be the best man I can be. I spoke about his work ethic and his love for Jesus Christ and then I went back to take my seat. As I listened to all the friends and family that spoke after me talk about how my father changed their lives, how they will always cherish the conversations they had with him and how he was a man of passion. That is when this question hit me; how was my dad able to build a legacy that touched all these people? It wasn’t about the amount of people at the funeral, but it was the passion and genuine words of love that caught me by surprise. How my father was able to touch all of these people’s lives is what left me speechless. I decided to further research what it means to have a legacy. The definition of a legacy is “a gift or a bequest, which is handed down, endowed or conveyed from one person to another. It is something one comes into possession of that is transmitted, inherited or received from a predecessor. It is to cause or allow something originating from an ancestral source to spread between people or provide something freely and naturally.” My father left no money or property (not to those people at least) and they were not all his children but he did leave something to all of them. My father left something that surpasses human touch but can be easily seen by the human eye. He left a lasting impression and a legacy of respect, love, passion and hard work to everyone that he crossed paths with. Then the bigger question hit me, how do you create a legacy to touch people in this way? How does someone like myself follow in my father’s footsteps and touch the lives of many at a young age of 23. I then dug deeper into my father’s past and came up with some things that helped me and may help others understand that life is bigger than you and I. Life is about what you can do to help others and how you will be remembered. Creating a legacy is bigger than how much money you have in the bank or how many cars you have when you die (1 of the 4 cars my dad drove was a 1990 Honda Accord, I am almost for certain his legacy or anyone’s legacy is more important than that car) . Life is about leaving a piece of yourself inside the hearts and minds of as many people as you can, and if that means one person life is changed by your actions, then you have succeeded. These four small things helped my father achieve GOAT status when it came to creating his own legacy and may help you as well.
1. Get Active! Any Way Possible:
Getting active seems tough to some but it is easier than you think. Though it took my Dad a while to get active in the ethical way (I like the phrase “Gangster turned Preacher” to describe my Pops) he still became a beacon of light in the Wade Park area. My father used church as a way to get active and to affect people lives but there are many ways to get active without going to church. My father helped rebuild the church that he was a part of which also helped the community because churches in areas like that really helped uplift the community (at least in that era). Every member and visitor of First Community Baptist Church honors my father without even knowing by fellow-shipping inside of that place. My father was also a big neighborhood guy. Anything going on in the neighborhood, we were a part of as kids. Tennis, basketball, baseball, plays, etc. My father used his resources to connect to people young and old. By being active in his community, my father knew that he would be able to help and contribute to the lives of other people. My father had a mentality of helping himself by helping others.
2. Mean What You Say and Only Say What You Know.
Every reflection given at the funeral at some point said, “Hemingway stood behind what he said” which means my father fought for his view points and did not change them for anyone. My Father has spent countless hours studying different topics to equip himself not only in doing different things (very handy with tools) but to defend things that he believed. He always believed that anyone could do anything if they learned about it. The same was for him when it came to having conversations/debates with people. My Pops could win an argument with anybody because he would first educate himself and argue his point to the end of the world. If you feel strongly about something, first educate yourself even more than what you may already know and be ready to stand firm to what you believe. People respect men who stand true to their beliefs and ideas. My father was walking proof of this. People respected him because they knew Hemingway was always down to give you an educated debate about anything!
3. Find a Passion, and Be On Fire For It
After my dad got out of the streets, he found Christ. After finding Jesus Christ, he then became on fire for Him. My father’s fire never burned out becoming an active church member, then a deacon, then elder, and then minister. He also was always looking and finding new moves that helped him and his family grow spiritually. Anything that would take him backwards, he left alone. He lost a lot of friends and even family members because they wanted Hemp back (Hemp was my father’s hood name, everybody had hood names back then). But as he lost many friends, he made even more friends that were aligned with his passion and goals. The people that knew Hemp and the people that met Deacon Anthony Hemingway respected him because he found his passion and stuck with it. Your passion doesn’t have to be spiritually based. Your passion can be anything from cooking, to becoming an accountant, to playing in the NBA. People can only respect you when you find what you want to do, set goals to achieve what you want to do, and then try your hardest to achieve those goals. Though my dad’s goal to start his own church never was achieved, his fire never went out. Find your passion and do it to the fullest.
4. Work hard and challenge others to work hard.
A man came to the viewing to pay his respects to my father and my family and we spoke about how he knew my Pops. He said that my Pops was one of the Associate Pastors training him when was becoming a Deacon at “The Word Church”. He said, “Your father worked so hard, and he pushed so hard to get the best out of us when we were in his class. In every circumstance, he expected perfection and when he did not get that, he pushed harder. He was truly a great man.” That phrase embodies everything my father was about; working hard and not expecting any less from anyone else on his team. Work hard and demand the best from your peers. People respect hard workers, but people never forget when you work hard to help them see their own potential. Legacies are built by empowering, pushing, and continually demanding greatness not only from yourself but also from others.
So how are you building your legacy?
In Loving Memory of Anthony Hemingway
We love and miss you Pops!