Over the past year, I experienced two profound rites of passage that made me rethink my approach to life and the legacy I want to leave behind when I’m gone. In February my mother passed away, and in October I turned 49 years old.

Our time here is short, and after we’re gone all that’s left is the effect we’ve had on others. How will we be remembered? What did we contribute? How many people have been impacted by our lives and was the experience positive or negative for them?

My mother’s legacy was a bit unusual. She was a great parent, successful writer and avid Zen practitioner, yet the biggest imprint she left behind was more personal.

As my mom got older, she talked more and more about a desire to live as fully as possible. For her, this didn’t mean climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or learning French; instead, she made a conscious effort to be awake in the present moment in a way I’ve never seen before or since. As a result, she developed a palpable appreciation for the world around her, drinking in every detail with a mellow sort of joy that rubbed off on anyone she met.

I remember being in my mom’s bedroom two days before she died. She was silently staring at a vase full of flowers, lost in thought, and I said, “Are you OK?” My mother turned toward me with a smile that was so full of peace and pleasure you never would have thought she was dying. “Look at the way those tulips cup the light,” she said. “Isn’t that amazing?”

My mom’s legacy was an ability to see the world as a miraculous place full of promise, a gift she passed on to hundreds of people over the course of her life. As for my own legacy, I’m still working that out.

That brings me to this special issue of Aquatics International. I am in awe of each individual depicted in the Power 25. Every one of them, in a different way, is creating a positive legacy that will continue long after they’re gone.

Somewhere in America, a toddler is learning to swim, his chunky legs kicking up froth as he grins at the instructor. And the legacy grows. An older child zips down a water slide, her laughter clearly heard on the ground below. Across the country, a high school student warms up for a swim meet — he swings his arms like Michael Phelps, dreaming of Olympic greatness. The legacy grows.

Tomorrow, a young lifeguard will successfully rescue a swimmer in trouble, using the invaluable training she received, and an adult suffering from rheumatoid arthritis will thankfully lower his aching body into the water. And the legacy grows. Thousands are employed in waterparks and aquatics facilities, and millions are benefitting from cutting-edge research that affects our industry. 

This is the legacy of our Power 25 and I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to honor it.