Psychologist Erick Erickson says coming to terms with your life is the big deal psychological task of people nearing the end of their lives. You look back fondly at the good stuff you did or experienced and try to make a story out of the heaps of steaming horse manure that inevitably decorate your life with unpleasantness. It's natural, when we look at the ending of our lives that we want to know whether or not we will be well-remembered and whether or not we'll be the hero of our own story.
My son, Micah, asked a friend once if the friend though anyone would remember him if he died. He had struggled for 14 years with a seizure disorder and I suppose he was always aware of his own mortality. Two weeks after he posed that question, he died in his sleep. There's not a day I don't think about him and miss him. He was 28, six months from graduating from college with his life before him. He didn't get the luxury of ruminating over his accomplishments nor have the time to write his memoirs. Yet, he lived his life well, left behind good friends, countless kids he was a mentor too and so many great stories, that his memorial service got more laughs than some standup comedians do.
Not every old guy does all that ruminating. I suppose, if you figure this life is all there is, you'd like to be remembered for at least a few years. A lot of evil has been done in the name of gaining a place in history over the several millenia of recorded human history. Being monumentally bad is the cheap way to be remembered in this particular iteration of the world. Being remembered for good deeds usually requires some form of martyrdom to get your name on the final exam for World History 101.
Me, I have a hard time really getting my mind around the idea of being dead and no longer being busy doing things in the world. I haven't seen everything and done everything yet. Death would be a monumental hinderance to my plans for world conquest.
It's my Christian faith, you see. When Jesus said that if you have faith in Him you have eternal life. Note: He does not say you will have eternal life after you die and sleep and He comes back to get you. As my grandpa once noted, "If you're going to wake up from it, then it's not really death." It's like Burgess Meredith described it in Grumpy Old Men - a dirt nap!
So if death is nothing more than an extended nap in the dirt, then why in the world am I worried about my legacy. I am, to quote Dan Fogelbert, "a living legacy". So rather than spending my golden years searching for the meaning of my life, I rather believe I'll just keep on trying to make some meaning out of my life right up until I pitch over nose first into the dirt for that little nap.
Of course, I kind of hope Jesus will come and we can go straight on to the real work of shaping the universe in partnership with God. How much fun will that be? So, I currently plan to tool along doing the sort of thing I'll be doing in the New Heavens and New Earth - building things, taking care of the gardening, making music, telling stories, that sort of thing. I plan to skip dying altogether, but if I do croak, I plan to die busy with all kinds of unfinished projects going. I plan to wake up busy too. I figure since I have eternal life promised, I'm already living forever and I really ought to act like it.