Elaine and I were in Newport, Rhode Island, in early April and went to see the mansions on the coast. If you have ever seen the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, think 50 times that and you will have an image of the mansions in Newport. The Biltmore in Asheville was built by George Vanderbilt, and all the other Vanderbilt brothers and sisters built their mansions in Newport. If you have ever seen the Millionaire village on Jekyll Island, most of the same families that had cottages on Jekyll Island had their main summer homes in Newport, Rhode Island.
If you like history as I do, it is simply the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Newport mansions started to be built in the late 1800s up through the early 1900s. We took a tour through two of the homes and they are like the Biltmore in Asheville in terms is grandeur and size. There is a walking path between the homes and the ocean that runs for 3-4 miles called the cliff walk; there are also two beaches that the people used. They referred to the owners of the mansions as “the 400” meaning that they were the 400 wealthiest people in the US.
We bought a book that had pictures of postcards of the Newport homes and many with people walking along the streets and along the cliff walk. The cliff walk is said to be the most beautiful walk in the world.
Again, I am very interested and intrigued with historic homes and historic hotels, but mostly I am intrigued with the people that lived in that day. I can only imagine people in Newport knew they were rich and believed they had all the time in the world and all the wealth to live life to its fullest.
All the people in the postcards of Newport also have one in common, they are all dead now.
I think often about our life – how fragile it is and how quickly it can all end. I have come to the conclusion that once you have passed away, you no longer have the opportunity to forgive a wrong against you, choose to change your life, or influence anyone. Your legacy is simply made of what you left behind and what you stood for when you were alive.
My brother in law, Ted Phillips, says that on a tombstone there is a dash between the date your life started and the date your life ended; it is what you do between that dash that defines who you are.
When I look at the faces of the people in Newport, RI, in 1900, I wonder what they stood for. Did they teach their children what it meant to be honest and walk a life of integrity or did they just live each day regardless of the examples they set and regardless of the memories their families will remember them by?
I’ve never seen a tombstone with two dashes representing two lives. I only have seen one dash, which means we only get one try.
Anyone reading this is still on the living side and still has an opportunity to do what is right. To leave an impression on your children and children’s children.
I told a client a few weeks ago to imagine if he knew for certain that another financial crisis would begin next February and to think about the changes he would make now in anticipation of that date. Whatever action is exactly what he should be doing today. When I said that, his jaw dropped and he swallowed real hard, but I could see it in his eyes that he was about to make some decisions that would affect his financial future.
It’s the same with us in that if we knew for sure the day we would pass on, I am certain each of us would make some changes in our life leading up to that day. Thank God in heaven that we do not know the day, but are able to just imagine what it would be like to be prepared for that day. As I told the client, the changes you would make are the exact changes you need to be doing.
Like the folks in the Newport, RI, postcards, one day we all will be looked at in a picture 100 years from now; we will either be remembered as someone good and honest or not. It all comes down to what you want your dash to be remembered as. KT