As Miranda and the others come to grips with their own mortality and the very real chance they might not survive, they grapple with the idea of legacy, what is or is not left behind to represent their lives. A number of characters in the novel seek to create a kind of artistic legacy, a record to capture what they think and experience in the catastrophe, from Mrs. Nesbitt’s photographs, to Matt’s sketches, to Miranda’s diary entries. Miranda’s mother, however, creates a different sort of legacy. She’d spent her career as an author prior to these disasters, yet the legacy she seeks to create has nothing to do with art. Knowing the unlikelihood of her whole family surviving, she chooses to make sure her children have a greater chance of living by eating less food. She sees her children as the legacy that will stay behind in the world, and sacrifices herself for that cause.
Actively choosing not to leave a legacy is another possibility in the story. Mrs. Nesbitt burns her journals and letters before she dies so that no one is tempted to read them – in destroying her legacy she erases her pain and suffering from the world. Mrs. Nesbitt’s action leads Miranda to question her own purpose for writing her journal. Is it boredom? Is she writing for a future reader? Does she believe that there will be a future with readers who could learn from her experiences? Ultimately Miranda decides that she’s writing the journal for herself, to document what’s she’s endured so that she can look back. This decision comes from a place of hope, because it’s based on Miranda’s belief that she will survive.
As characters are stripped of their opportunities to create futures, the records they leave behind become increasingly personally important. But, with the uncertainty of the times in which they live, it is also clear that there’s no way to ensure that what they leave behind will ever be considered, and no way to govern the way in which it is interpreted. Thus the act of leaving a legacy, as presented by the novel, is less about creating a record for those who follow, and more of a way of creating a personal record for the present, as a way of processing experiences as they occur.
Legacy Quotes in Life as We Knew It
Sometimes when Mom is getting ready to write a book she says she doesn’t know where to start, that the ending is so clear to her that the beginning doesn’t seem important anymore. I feel that way now only I don’t know what the ending is, not even what the ending is tonight.
One thing Matt did say to me was that no matter what the future is, we’re living through a very special time in history. He says that history makes us who we are, but we can make history also, and that anyone can be a hero, if they just choose to be.
“I’m the one not caring. I’m the one pretending the earth isn’t shattering all around me because I don’t want it to be... I don’t want anything more to be afraid of. I didn’t start this diary for it to be a record of death.”
I write stuff down in here and I don’t read it. Things are bad enough without having to remind myself of just how bad things are.
But I just read what I wrote a couple of days ago. All about how wonderful school is and all that crap. Tests. Whoo-whoo. Report cards. Whoo-whoo. The future. Biggest whoo-whoo of them all.
I’ve never really thought about what it would be like to be an old woman. Of course nowadays I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to be any kind of woman.
But I hope when I get closer to death, however old I might be, that I can face it with courage and good sense the way Mrs. Nesbitt does. I hope that’s a lesson I’ve truly learned.
“If we all die, you’ll leave,” I said. “Because you’ll be strong enough to. And maybe someplace in America or Mexico or somewhere things are better and you’ll manage to get there. And then Mom’s life and Matt’s and mine won’t have been a waste.”
Do people ever realize how precious life is? I know I never did before. There was always time. There was always a future.
Maybe because I don’t know anymore if there is a future, I’m grateful for the good things that have happened to me this year.
I don’t even know why I’m writing this down, except that I feel fine and maybe tomorrow I’ll be dead. And if that happens, and someone should find my journal, I want them to know what happened.
I’d left a record. People would know I had lived. That counted for a lot.
But today, when I am 17 and warm and well fed, I’m keeping this journal for myself so that I can always remember life as we knew it, life as we know it, for a time when I am no longer in the sunroom.