When I think about why I want to write and tell stories, the most significant reason is because without stories to help me navigate and understand my life, I might not still be here. It was my friends on the page at Hogwarts that got me through years of bullying. It was the music of RENT that helped me come into my own and embrace my brand of weird. It was Doctor Who that made me realize no one in the universe is unimportant—including me. So as I awoke today—on the day which marks 7 years since my mother died—I can’t help but think about the newest story in my life that’s helping me through. Hamilton.
You’re an orphan of course, I’m an orphan! Those few lines from the first time I listened really hit me, for I too am an orphan. Hamilton wrote his way out of his circumstances and poverty, which is what I’m struggling here to do by writing non-stop. He had his revolutionary covenant, as I have my remarkable squad of friends who are always on my side. Seeing all these pieces of myself in a musical penned by someone I’ve never met reminds of the one thing that I really need on days like this—I’m not alone.
But of all the quotes from Hamilton I can think of today—especially It’s Quiet Uptown—the one that actually came first to mind this morning was one from the show’s final song.
What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.
This line in the context of the show refers to Hamilton reflecting in his final moments about the legacy he may or may not leave behind. He was a man obsessed with “legacy”, wanting his name to live on and mean something. But for me this morning, it was not my own legacy I thought about. It was my mother’s.
She was not a perfect person. She had flaws, pissed off a lot of people, and made many mistakes like the rest of us. But what is her legacy? What is the legacy of a woman who’s obituary was nothing more than a few lines about the family she left behind and that she loved gardening? It is unlikely history will ever remember my mother the way they remember someone prolific like our ten dollar founding father. But there is at least one thing she left behind—me.
When people leave us, those of us who are left behind are the ones who define their legacy. We carry with us every day what they left us with. And while Cynthia Hannon might never be remembered by the ages, she is remembered with a full heart by me and those she touched because of her kindness.
Her legacy is the fact that she supported & encouraged an artistic child who is now close to being a published author. Her legacy is in the memories of my friends she used to drive out of her way to take home after our drama club practice because their parents didn’t think it was important. Her legacy is love. Its a love that I carry with me every moment of my life. And as the same favorite storyteller behind Hamilton recently reminded me:
Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.
So mom, today in your honor, I remember the love you left behind. It will not be swept aside. I’ll keep your flame. I’ll be the one who tells your story.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF CYNTHIA ANN HANNON
APRIL 25TH, 1953—JUNE 26TH, 2009