I’ve been thinking about leaving a legacy lately. Maybe it’s working with elderly parents, wondering when they are gone what of them will continue on in generations to come. I am recognizing with new eyes, we all leave an inheritance of one kind or another. I’m pondering what I want mine to be. These are not morbid thoughts, but realistic ones born of the stage of life I am in. I am thanking God for giving me this space in time to contemplate. Otherwise, I would go through life at light speed, not recognizing the passing time and the importance of what my actions now will mean in the future…if anything at all.
I have wondered how it is we pass ourselves down to our kids and grandkids. I don’t really think it is what we do exactly, but more who we are. Of course, who we are influences what we do, so they are definitely linked in some ways, but a heritage isn’t born from activity. Our things are not our legacy either. Stuff is just stuff, yet when I look at some items I feel as if those who went before are speaking. This feeling of connection to the past fuels my love of antiques and sentimental items which would mean nothing to anyone without the story attached.
When I arrived last week at Hannah’s house for a visit, I was greeted with my aunt Betty’s needlework pillows. A basket of hers, which held small instruments when I was a kid, is now on the piano in my daughter’s living room. On the shelves in the TV room, there were more remembrances tucked into cubbies here and there. A painting by Louise. Pottery of my mom’s. Some items from Hannah’s travels, salt balls from the dead sea, pottery shards from Israel, and a doll from Haiti. A painting of mine hangs in her bedroom. The effect on my heart was one of warmth and a few tears welled up in my eyes as well. I saw our family legacy in one glimpse. Pieces from those we love are incorporated into our own lives. They are subtle. Not always huge show stoppers. Just simple reminders of where we come from and where we might be headed.
I flew across the country to spend a few days her because, I needed a break from our stressed life so desperately. The opportunity presented itself and I took it. While there, in the same way I saw the transfer of generations in the trinkets around the house, I saw the same thing in our conversations. I saw what we have blended from the former generations into our current ones. We made note, as we walked through an old book store that our love of reading comes from my mom. Not just in our two lives, but in the lives of most of our nearest relatives. Our time outside on a balcony for lunch in the sun, would have been how Louise would have celebrated this day. We went from shop to shop, and dock to dock taking in the breeze and sunshine as if it was medicine for our souls.
Later, a Compline service once again echoed my mom’s love of liturgy in the voices ringing throughout the sanctuary of a local church. Following the service, an organ concert, which we knew nothing about ahead of time, reverberated Betty’s love in the vibrations from every note. The walls shook with the power of the sounds. In those moments, I saw the weaving of lives so clearly. The influences coming into and out of our days, which we may not even realize have been passed to us on the whispers of our ancestors. We in turn whisper to each other and collect memories that will outlast our breath.
It’s not just family either. Friends leave their own imprints on our lives as well. A bit of them brushes off on us, adding some color here and there to the artwork that is our lives. I think a certain way because of something someone said, a song we played together, or a note we passed. Coaches, teachers, mentors, have the same effect. They pass on wisdom. Our lives become a patchwork of connections and those connections make us the unique individuals we are. We are carriers of legacy, and we distribute ours to others around us just by being a part of their lives. It isn’t some mystical event, it is the day to day, year after year, parts of ourselves we share willingly.
Over two days, Hannah and I chatted for hours, about important things, and unimportant ones. We enjoyed each other’s company and the glorious fall weather. It was not anything we did, it was just being together. We created an inheritance of shared time. We continued our heritage from the past into the present. Those touches will reverberate into the future. It is our legacy.