One day – you’re going to die! I know… it’s always good to lead with such a positive upbeat thought. – but, it’s the truth. Unless the Lord comes back before it happens – we are all going to die. That isn’t meant to be a depressing statement, just keeping it real – helping us keep a proper perspective.
So, we know, we’re not meant to live forever here on Earth. We live our lives looking forward to what’s ahead. But, have you ever thought about what you were going to leave behind?
And I don’t mean to further depress you, just stick with me here for a minute. I don’t want you to be discouraged thinking about those that you think you will miss; leaving a spouse, children, grandchildren, friends, etc. That’s not the point I am looking to drive home with this article.
What I want you to think about is your legacy. What will you leave behind? What will be your lasting legacy? What will your children say was most important to you? What will be your defining characteristic? What will be said about you at your funeral by friends and family members? Twenty years after you die what will your grandchildren remember about you?
Start with this… What do you remember about your grandparents?
Your Grandmother… maybe you remember her cooking in the kitchen. Maybe you remember her serving your family, and friends, and strangers. Maybe you have some cherished cards or letters that she sent. Maybe your grandmother liked to tell jokes or stories. Did your grandmother teach you to play Rook or Hearts or some other card game? Maybe your grandmother sat behind a sewing machine or taught you to knit. Maybe your grandmother took you on some fabulous vacations. Maybe you can still remember smelling fresh bread coming from her oven. Did your love of gardening come from your grandmother or maybe your dislike or all things jello? Maybe you still can picture your grandmother feeding your grandfather, because his Parkinson’s was so bad he couldn’t feed himself. Maybe you can still hear your grandmother’s voice singing hymns from back when she would take you to church? What is it that you remember about your grandmother?
Your Grandfather… maybe you can still remember the smell of his pipe. Maybe you remember going out to his “shop” and helping him fix things. Maybe you remember his commitment to your grandmother even as she lay sick and dying in the care of a hospice nurse. Maybe you remember your grandfather always having a handkerchief on hand when it was needed. Maybe you remember a grandfather that was always reading his Bible. Maybe you remember your grandfather telling you ghost stories when he would come visit. Can you still see your grandfather’s false teeth in the glass next to his bed or sink? Did your grandfather teach you how to hunt or fish? Maybe all your memories of your grandfather are of him being happy and positive even as he battled cancer. Maybe you remember your grandfather taking you on trips to the Ferrari dealer to dream about cars. What is it that you remember about your grandfather?
What legacy did your grandparents or maybe even your parents leave for you? I would assume you naturally think about what they taught you or memories you have of them. I would have to guess it isn’t the stuff that they left you that you think about first, but hopefully you think of the love and respect you have for them because of what they gave to others.
But sometimes “stuff” evokes great memories, too. Sometimes it symbolizes something about who we are. What “stuff” will symbolize who you are/were? What items will be treasured when you die?
Maybe it will be your old Bible. Maybe your children will appreciate the pocketknife you always had with you. Maybe your sewing machine will be special to your children. Maybe there is a particular piece of furniture that your children will associate with you. Maybe guns will be passed down to your children. Maybe it will be a computer, a coffee cup, or the tools out in your garage that will symbolize something peculiar about you. Maybe it’s a journal or a diary that you kept. Maybe you have a special motorcycle or car that your children will cherish. Maybe it’s a family heirloom, dishes, or jewelry.
Physical items can be quite powerful – things can carry with them some great sentimental value and memories.
I only knew one of my grandmothers so I won’t try to compare the two. One of my grandmothers is still alive, the other one died the year before I was born.
For me though, memories of my grandfathers stand in stark contrast one from the other. One of my grandfathers – I don’t remember a whole lot about. We would see him a few times per year. I don’t remember him being a “bad guy,” per se. All I really remember of him is that he seemed to drink quite a bit and he had Playboy magazines sitting around his house. That’s it – seriously, that’s all I remember. That’s his legacy – to me.
So, on the flip-side, my other grandfather… I remember he chewed tobacco. He always had his brown Levi Garrett Chewing Tobacco and an old large tomato juice can that sat next to him that he would spit into. I still can smell that tobacco – and it’s a good smell – in my head. He wasn’t much of a talker. He worked with his hands and he worked hard. He would sneak us a dollar to go across the street from their house and buy the candy cigarettes that you could blow “smoke” out of and Necco wafers. I think he could fix anything that had a motor. He wasn’t a large man – rather small in stature. He would let us sit on his lap and help him steer the car – no seatbelts and no airbags – dangerous memories. He never really went on vacation. He paid for everything with cash – even his house. He wasn’t a man that did public prayers or lead singing or ever preach a sermon that I am aware of. But, I wish more men could be like him. He loved his family. He provided for his family. He was a good ‘ole Kentucky boy that back in 1970, with my grandmother, adopted his bi-racial grandson (my cousin) who was born completely disabled with cerebral palsy. From that point forward he devoted his life to caring for my cousin. I don’t think I have ever seen a more beautiful picture of love and sacrifice in any man. What an enduring marvelous legacy this simple man left.
Set Your House In Order
So, that’s all well and good. But, besides evoking hopefully some good memories you might have of lost loved ones – what are the lessons to be learned for us?
You, too, will leave a legacy. People will have memories of you.
What will you leave behind?
When are you going to start preparing to leave your legacy? Let me encourage you to do it now. Get started.
Hezekiah, in 2 Kings 20 was told that he was going to die and the Lord told him to, “Put your house in order.”
What does it mean to put your house in order? I guess I have been thinking about this more and more the older I get. I think we need to be cognizant of both the physical and spiritual implications of what leaving a legacy for our children or grandchildren entails.
My wife and I made out a will for the first time several years ago. We put our house in order, physically. We made sure that our children would be provided for once we are gone and we are doing what we can to ensure our death will not bring any financial hardships or difficulties on our family. I think there is great benefit in leaving a legacy of money for your children. There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving money and stuff behind. I think there is ample Biblical encouragement about providing for future generations, financially. Be financially, fiscally responsible – put your house in order – set your children up for success after you are gone.
But more importantly… what will your true lasting legacy be? What are you going to leave behind? Will it matter that you lived at all? To whom?
There’s an old Native American Proverb that I like… “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.”
What will your children, your grandchildren, your spiritual children, your friends remember about you? Will there be great stories about love and adventure. Will all the memories be filled with laughter and joy? Will your children be encouraged when you are gone by memories of the examples of generosity in your life? Will your legacy be one of commitment to your marriage and your children? Will your obedience and love of God be what people remember most about you? What will you leave behind for future generations?
Your legacy begins today!