Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22: 37-40 (NIV)
It was a sunny morning much like today. He had awakened early as he did every day of his life. This morning, though, instead of heading to the nursery or the pasture, the office or a meeting, as he did when he wasn’t on vacation, he walked a few blocks from our apartment to spend a few moments amongst the hallowed grounds of a centuries-old cemetery in Dover, Delaware which we had mentioned to him the night before.
Lynda’s Dad did that a lot amidst the visits he and Lynda’s Mom made to see us, and throughout their travels to other corners of this great land. I had always supposed it was because he had developed and cared for a couple of memorial parks back home. I learned later—after many years with this gentle giant of a man who had blessed my life—that I was only partly right.
On a number of occasions I have done the same. You too, perhaps. A peaceful tranquility overcomes me as I walk under the protective shade of stately oaks and magnolias guarding the memories of loved ones. I’m always careful to walk through and around—not over—row after row of tombstones and markers. Her Dad probably taught me that. I had always supposed it was to demonstrate respect for the sacredness of the site.
The epitaphs of family and friends seemed to lift to life those whom they honored with remembrances on the markers like…
“Her beautiful smile and cheerful, loving way brought a radiant light into our world…” The dates on the grave marker told the story that she was only eighteen when she left.
“A life so young…one wonders ‘Why?’…beloved son and brother you are remembered every single day.” He was twenty.
“Heaven’s Darling Angel…” adorned a marker decorated with two hot-wheel cars and a butterfly. Age two-and-one-half.
“Our Princess.” Forever, I thought, but only here for just one and one-half years.
And then my eyes fell on one remembering a professor I had been privileged to study with in law school—“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
There it is. That’s why Dad visited those earthly resting places in town after town across this country. That’s why he read markers and tombstones from the east coast to the west and all points in between. It gave him a sense of the influence and legacy of the lives which had gone before him. In those moments of reflection, he was reminded that through his own thoughts, words and deeds he would have an influence, for good or not, and leave a legacy that would impact the lives of so many others.
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines “legacy” as “something received as from an ancestor or predecessor…something coming from the past.” And I suppose as we grow a bit older, you tend to think about that more than when toys, tooth fairies, college choices and career paths were foremost on your mind. Yet the formation of your legacy is a lifetime thing; it happens every day of your life.
And despite what you may read into the words above, in Dad’s heart it had nothing to do with things, money, possessions or worldly accomplishments. Those things may come, as they did for him through hard work, discipline and sacrifice, but never by sacrificing the legacy that was most important to him—to glorify God by adding value to lives of family, friends and everyone he met.
One time around to leave a legacy which will take value away from the lives around us, or add value to help everyone we meet become all they were meant to be. One time around to make millions and accumulate things, or to support, love and care for your family and those others who come into your life for reasons you may only know much, much later.
One time around to ascend to positions of power for all the world to see, or to use that time to make this world a better place for all you see and meet. One time around to leave a legacy of things, or a legacy of fingerprints on the hearts of those who are less because you’re gone—but more because you were here. One time around to leave a legacy of material success, or a legacy of significance—simply that at least one life is better because you were here.
What will our legacy be?
It is clear to me that I am better because of all of those—like Lynda’s Dad and Mom—who day-by-day lived a legacy for me and so many others which God smiled down upon from above.
What will your legacy be—today, tomorrow and forever?
It starts now.
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2012. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.