Are You Old Enough for a Legacy?


In an interview before the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning deflected a question about his legacy to football, saying he was too young at 37 to have a legacy. That was for people 70 years of age or so.

I was already thinking about legacies when I heard the interview, because Woody Allen’s is being questioned again with the publication of a letter from his daughter, Dylan Farrow. Whether you believe Dylan’s version or Woody’s denial, there still is a level of doubt that colors the lifetime achievement award he just received at this year’s Golden Globes.

But until I heard the Manning interview, I never really thought about what age you need to be to leave a legacy, which Merriam-Webster defines as a gift from the past that can be good or bad.

The actor Philip Seymour Hoffman just died, leaving a legacy of rich on-screen portrayals. He was only 46, far too young to die, but far older than Anne Frank, who died at 15. Her legacy gives voice to those who stood against Nazi persecution. And Mattie Stepanek was even younger, dying at 13 after spreading his poetry, joy and innate optimism in so many places, including the Oprah show.

So, age has nothing to do with the kind of legacy you can leave.

And that is good news, because I was reading a story about four-year-old Myls Dobson, a little boy who would hop onstage to play “guitar” – really a comb – at his church. By all accounts, he charmed many until his death last month at the hands of his jailed father’s abusive girlfriend. Myls had already been removed from the girlfriend’s custody, but when his father was arrested, the penal system and the child welfare system didn’t communicate, and he was sent to her again.

The mayor of New York has called for a new way of doing things. The preacher at the service was quoted as saying that government leaders and parents would learn from the death of little Myls.

I hope so. It would be nice to think that that kind of legacy could come from this four-year-old whose father said he was “the most beautifulest child.”

But meanwhile, it makes you wonder. What will your legacy be?