Who we are now
is not defined by our history.
It’s presented by what we leave behind:
the seeds we plant
that future generations
are privileged to climb.

So who are WE—now?
As Canadians?
As immigrants to this native nation
that has become home
to folks from every country
on the face of this earth?
How do we build this nation
for our Indigenous stewards
to receive what they deserve?
How do we find the gold
after being buried in the dirt?

I’ve learned in life
two things are inevitable.
One day we will be born.
And one day we will leave.
It’s not about the dates attached.
It’s about the dash in between.
It’s about legacy.

Les Brown once said:
the richest place on earth
       is the cemetery.
Far too often,
people die with their dreams still inside them.
Their gifts—they deny us,
taking with them ideas, visions, and wisdom,
leaving this earth
without completing their purpose
or life mission,
nor leaving a lasting imprint.

What is your why?
What legacy will you leave with your time?
What do we do with the time we have left?
How can we make our dreams manifest?
Or make this life
a little easier for those who come behind us,
our legacies felt and timeless?

I’ve learned in life
we are the authors and the protagonists of our lives.
The creators and the characters at the same time.
With each word we scribe,
we bring imagination to life.
We manifest thought into fruition.
If we open up our mind’s eye and listen,
we can see the gift within we’ve been given.
The ability to write the very lives we are currently living.
There is truly a difference between living and merely existing.

So who are we now?
How do we leave this world
better than we found it?
By pushing barriers—moving mountains?
As a society, we are only as good
as our citizens.
We are droplets of an endless ocean,
waves of harmonic motions.
We are limitless.
We are more connected than we think.
We are reflections of the infinite.
Who are we now that we know better than we did before?
What do we do with the time we have left?
How can our adversities design us, not define us?
What legacy are we creating today
that we can leave behind us?

When I think of mine,
I often question
if a coffin is where my legacy is destined,
a Riga-mortis reflection of me
buried six feet deep in the six, my legacy
and soul awaiting the arrival of twelve disciples,
and no remnants of me,
no fruits of labour left for my seeds,
not leaving this world better than when I came in,
my name forgotten, not even whispered upon the lips
of those my actions impacted.
It’s scary.
I heard once that
the worst thing that could happen to us when we die
is not death itself:
it is to be forgotten.
I cringe at the thought of my efforts lost in coffins,
boxed in; the same confines that caused me problems,
my legacy and beliefs encrypted on a tombstone,
indicating the dates to and from,
but I hope the dash in between
represents more than just the good work I’ve done,
my life
blowing in the wind like the breath that has left from my lungs
only to leave this world unfulfilled,
with holes in the pure potential I was given
and spinning the same cycle to my children? No.

When your time comes, and your soul is sent,
what will the dash on your tombstone

Because one of the only things
more difficult than death itself
is to be forgotten,
or perhaps to plant legaseeds
and never see your roses blossom,
to never unbox your gifts before your coffin.
We all deserve to be honoured
while we are still alive,
to witness the budding gratitude
of loved ones with open eyes.
You deserve to be celebrated
like you’re already gone,
to be given your flowers
while they are still flourishing,
while you can still smell the sweet scent
of photosynthesis
as your life branches out
of the purpose you’re rooted into
and the fruits you’ve produced.
So may I give you your flowers
while they are still in bloom?
A bouquet packaged, delivered,
and handed to you
in honour of the effervescent existence
of your truth.
May this be a reminder that
your words and actions live on beyond
your body being six feet and entombed.

You are worthy of being handed yours
while you are still alive,
while you can still sniff the sweet fragrance
blossom in time,
a reminder of how you bloomed
before you were called to tomb.
From darkness to light,
how you passed on the baton
for the next generation to take flight.
A relay race of time between the lines
of from and to.
The legacy of what you’ve actualized
into truth.

One day, we will all be someone’s ancestor
       So, when there are no more moments left,
leave a legacy that will continue.
Etch your name in the dendrochronology of history’s pages.
Do not allow the “from” and “to” on your tombstone
to just be dated.
Let the dash in between
reveal the story you told
and the magic that you created!

Originally performed at The Walrus Gala: Who We Are Now

Randell Adjei
Randell Adjei is a spoken word artist, author, inspirational speaker, arts educator, and community leader.