I held her wrinkled, liver-spotted handone year ago today and listened to her labored breath rattle in and out of her weary body. As her time with us was coming to an end, we waited with her, stroked her hair, and told stories to each other across her bed, recalling long treasured memories. She may not have been consciously with us, but I like to think she could hear us none the less.
How I loved washing dishes in big metal basins on her kitchen table in the white farmhouse where the water came in pails from the well pump down the path behind the porch! Ironic, considering how much I hate doing the dishes now. My brother and I caught fireflies in her yard. I wish we had fireflies like that here in Texas! I can still see the pride and love beaming from her face. She was a good woman. In recent years, she and I had talked about how she had loved having fun with her two young boys, chasing each other around the yard with cups and buckets full of water in the summertime. She shared what she remembered of her time as a young mom when watching me with my own two boys.
Erma Pearl left an incredible legacy.But she would be the last one to think so. Were she here, she’d say she “wasn’t rich” and “didn’t even finish school”. But she’d be wrong, because that’s not the stuff a true legacy is made of, after all, is it?
The truth about leaving your legacy…
The word legacy conjures images of the grand financial fortune we maybe hope to leave at the end of our lives for our children and grandchildren. Or it might be the mental picture of an outstanding contribution to science and medicine which will shape generations to come. Legacy, we think, is an unreachable, unattainable goal for only a very few to leave behind, probably not us. In truth, leaving a legacy is not complicated, and we need not be rich enough to build Rockefeller Center or smarter and more educated than Sheldon Cooper in order to leave something of value behind.
Think you don’t have anything to offer? Maybe, like Erma Pearl, you think leaving a legacy is for someone with more money, skill, talent, more insert-reason-here? I’m happy to tell you… you’re wrong. Consider the parable of the mustard seed. It is the tiniest of all seeds, yet when planted, this tiny seed grows into a mighty tree. You do have something to offer. Even the smallest of our actions can be multiplied into amazing works by God.
Your legacy is the sum of your choices, actions, words, thoughts, and deeds… including and especially this moment right now. Your legacy is the tone of your voice teasing playfully with love, or the feel of arms wrapped tight for one more hug… just because. It’s the smile lighting up your face, or the belly laugh bouncing through the room.
Legacy is our past, present, and future all wrapped up together. It’s where we’ve been, and how we’ve managed to blaze a trail through the rough days as well as the glorious I-never-want-this-to-end days. The lessons we are learning today and tomorrow, our plans for the future, this is our legacy.
Your legacy is a gift you leavefor those you love and those who will follow behind. Life is complicated, and messy, and not always easy to figure out. How many times have you or I wished for a roadmap or book of instructions, or someone to grab our hands and yell ‘This way!’ Well, it’s our turn now to be that guiding voice for someone else, to leave breadcrumbs on the trail and mark the path! Let’s stomp our feet and leave big, deep, easy-to-follow footprints pointing the way. We’ll post signs when needed declaring: ‘WARNING! Harzards & Pitfalls AHEAD!’ and we’ll leave bright neon arrows pointing in the direction of wonders and experiences we don’t want them to miss. And best of all, we’ll point them toward God, and glorious things He has done in our lives.
Where have you been?What have you seen?What are you learning? Where are you going? How can you reach back and give someone a hand to follow behind you? There is a legacy only you can leave… Make sure the world doesn’t miss out!
Erma Pearl’s legacy is the beautiful sum of her children, grandchildren, and great-grands, of time spent with her throughout her long life, and the lessons she taught us along the way. The most powerful and memorable lesson and legacy she left for me was the gift of holding her hand as she passed from this life to the next. The lesson that came in that moment was both an unexpected and overwhelming a blessing: Do not fear death. Be there. It’s important. Being there for someone in those precious moments, and holding their hand is a sacred honor not to be forgotten.
Thank you, Grandma. I promise I won’t forget.
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