I recently was reminded of this when I attended the memorial service of a long-time neighbor, educator, and life-long Christian. Sally was in her late 80s and had been ill for awhile. As I sat and listened to the testimonies of adult grandchildren and others who loved her deeply, I felt gratitude for this elder who obviously lived her life and faith in such a way that it influenced, and will continue to influence generations. While we saw many pictures of Sally and her family on the large screen front of the chapel, the focus of the memorial was really not so much on her, but rather her deep abiding love of Christ. The church she attended is large (the main sanctuary holds between 1200 to 1500 people), so we gathered in and filled their chapel that probably holds about 200. The family and many of the friends who attended the service also attend that church, so there was very much a sense of a congregation who comes together regularly to listen, to pray, and to take the teachings to heart. They seemed to listen in and with one body. Very moving and very tangible. For the first time in a long while, I felt the poorer for not having grown up in a church.
Too often when I attend memorial services, I hear the deceased described as "a person of faith," and then we listen to a reading of Psalm 23 (sometimes sung) because just about everyone likes it and nobody actually knew what the favorite scripture was of the one who passed. Somehow, in the busyness of life, those deeper discussions never happened. The legacies we are left with are thin and weak - not much substance for the long road ahead.
On the day of Sally's passing, one of the daughters told me that several of her family members were at her bedside singing her favorite hymns. While she had spent most of the last several months living with a daughter, her last day was spent in her home. I also understand that for several days before she passed, she had private conversations with each family member.
Several times in the service I heard a phrase I was unfamiliar with: "winsome (perhaps win some?) for the gospel." I think in Sally's life, the legacy of the joy of the gospel did indeed win. We were not treated to a reading of Psalm 23, but rather one from Isaiah 40. Her pastor laughed and said that the last time he saw Sally, she requested that he read to her from that text. He asked, "Which verse?" She replied, "All of it."
Attending to our legacies is really not all that difficult, but it does require living life intentionally and lovingly. It requires the courage to talk of God, of life, and death. Of joys and blessings. Of mistakes made and lessons learned. What we might do differently, and what we can accept as finished. Yes, all of that, and probably more. Let's make it a little easier and start now.
May your legacy be rich, and may all reap the rewards of really knowing you.
God gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the LORD
shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.