A Legacy of Love

Legacy is planting trees under whose shade you will never sit.” – Richard Leon

I went to a dinner last night to honor a foundation my dad started 25 years ago. The foundation takes any money bequeathed in wills to the church he was pastor of and gives out grants to deserving organizations. The one they featured last night was a non-profit that helps with refugee settlement and combats the trafficking of children.

Sitting there listening to the work of my dad’s legacy, I pondered what the echo of our lives is when we die. Certainly the love and memories we have made lingered in the hearts and minds of the people we love but beyond that, is there anything else? I’ve helped build a few Habitat for Humanity homes – does that make any difference? What about words? Books? Blog posts?

Thinking about my dad’s quote above, we can plant trees under whose shade we will never sit. Presumably that means that there will be more oxygen to breathe, comfort on the hot days, possibly even food to eat for the people we leave behind and for our communities. We can plant and contribute to organizations and ideas that help ameliorate the pain in the world. And my dad did. But where does that mean my work as his daughter begins?

Someone in the room last night asked for a member of our family to speak. As the youngest child, I assumed it would be my brother or my mom since they’ve always done the talking but it turned out they nominated me. Without any preparation of what to say, I started with the depth, faith and the love that my dad started in me and how that fire still burns. In fact, it feels as if I have come to embody my dad even more in his absence than I ever did when he was alive, in search of God, kindness and love. We do pass a torch to the next generation and I think it’s in the form of the fires we light within other people. It’s not as quantifiable as money left to a foundation but it’s just as powerful.

The Core Message

If what you believe does not impact how you behave then what you believe is not important.” – Shaykh Yassir Fazaga

I was challenged by a question in Frederick Buechner’s meditation book Listening to Your Life: If you had to write a last message for the few people that you care about the most in 25 words or less, what would it be? I pondered this, tried it, revised it, slept on it, wrote it again. It’s hard. I never got it down to 25 words or less but here’s my favorite version in 45 words:

You are beautiful and precious, worthy of love. I am rooting for you in every endeavor, holding you in every tear, and standing tall beside you when you speak your truth. Cultivate silence. Stay rooted in learning and growth, leaning towards life. Never stop trying.

And you know what I liked best about this exercise? It’s like writing out my value statement about how I want to live. It seems like if I can distill that, it’ll tether me to my ground in the moments when I feel I’ve lost my way.