Legendary actor Mickey Rooney died this week at the age of 93 from natural causes. Even though he had an unprecedented 90 year film career, his assets at the time of death were valued at approximately $18,000. Seriously? 70 years ago, Rooney was the highest paid actor in Hollywood. How is it that when he died he had such a meager amount of money? What happened to all of the money that he earned along the way?
Rooney, during his lifetime, went through his fair share of money as well as women, having been married eight times. At the time of his death, he had disinherited most of his family, not claiming ill will towards them, but claiming that they had been better off than he was.
It’s always interesting to me, in light of my own past few years, to know what people leave behind. Too often, we look at people who would be considered “rich” by the world’s standards. We hear about the astronomical amounts of money and property that are left behind. We hear about the family squabbles as family members fight over what’s left and who will get the bulk of it. We hear about people who share a family name and even similar genetic make-up who treat each other worse than enemies. For what? Money? Property?
When my parents died, they did not have an awful lot, but considering the fairly humble lives that they had lived, it was fairly substantial. The funny thing was, that stuff was not nearly as important to me and my brother. We weren’t fighting over money and property. Actually, we weren’t fighting over anything other than the fact that we just wanted our parents back again. The things that they left behind that were of the most value to us were the intangible things, what they had given to us along the way, our character, our integrity, our values.
As morbid as it might sound, I often wonder what my children will say about me and what I’ve left for them once I’m gone. Will they fight over any tangible assets, or will they all think about the other things that I’ve given them? What have I given them? Is it worth something? Can they pass it on as well?
Jesus’ words in Mark 8:35-37 ring out to me as I think this through, “For whoever wants to save their lifewill lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” We might “gain the whole world,” but what good is it if we don’t have anything else?
While my career may not span nine decades when it’s all over, I hope that what I leave behind will be worth more in the hearts of the people left than on paper. I hope that the values and intangibles are the things that people are talking about, rather than the money. I’m not judging Rooney, he lived his life the way that he wanted to live it, but I am saying that I want to be different, I don’t want the things that I leave to be things that can be stolen, burned, or turned to dust and rust. I want what I leave to last. How about you?