BLAISE TAPP: Our elders' fortitude has me pondering my legacy

Blaise's late great-uncle was a Dunkirk veteran
Blaise's late great-uncle was a Dunkirk veteran

Of the countless buzzwords to have been adopted by the masses throughout the 21st Century so far, few are used with such over-earnest relish as the phrase 'legacy'.

While the word itself isn’t a new one – it has its roots in medieval Latin – 'legacy' is used as often in modern society as those much more recent additions to the Oxford English Dictionary like 'twerking' and 'selfie'.

We are, it seems, legacy-mad. The nation became obsessed with the word in the run-up to the London Olympics in 2012, when politicians banged on about the games being much more than a couple of incredible weeks during the summer.

Caught by surprise at being awarded the games, they needed to be able to justify the still-mind-boggling cost of the games. There was never any danger of the then-London mayor Boris Johnson sticking £9bn on the side of one of his famous red buses.

We are also, quite rightly, very concerned about what sort of legacy we will leave future generations if we don’t get to grips with global warming, the increased demand for both food and land, or the thorny issue of personal debt.

I am unsure whether or not it is my age, but I have been pondering the question of my own personal legacy quite a bit over the past year, during which time I have had to pen not one but two eulogies to two grand old men.

In the space of nine months, we have said goodbye to my grandad, who died aged 95, and his brother, who made it to the mightily impressive 98.

Last week, as I stood up before the congregation who had gathered to pay their final respects to my great-uncle – a veteran of both Dunkirk and the Burma campaign – I reflected not only upon the contribution that he had personally made to society, but what had been achieved by his generation alone.

I am not the first to lament the slow demise of that truly golden generation, nor will I be the last, but I don’t think I will ever stop being in awe of the fortitude of our grandparents and great-grandparents.

My grandfather, although not a rich man, was fond of telling anyone who would listen that he had everything he had ever wanted – a millionaire in the true sense, as the old song goes.

War veterans of my grandad’s vintage judged their lives not on what car they had on the drive or how many ‘friends’ they had on social media, but by the love of their family and the ability to enjoy a pint every now and again.

Of course, I have written that last sentence in the past tense because my grandad and my great-uncle’s generation are fast dying out and, before we know it, will be gone forever. These people are walking documentaries, all with stories worth telling.

Although I did spend quality time with both of them, there is the occasional regret that I didn’t listen to their wartime tales quite as carefully as I ought to have done.

Their legacy is clear – they delivered us from an unspeakable evil and selflessly worked their socks off to build a better country for their children and grandchildren.

The best way for us to honour that special generation is to think long and hard about the legacy that we will leave.