As much as I would like to take it back, I wrote what I did the other day about my family of origin because it was true. That won’t make it less real. But, that said, my father is dead and gone and he left us to sort out our lives without him. That is what I am attempting to do, sort out my life, but I realize that I cannot keep talking about it. I have to do something to move on.
I love my sisters and Mother dearly. Whatever happens, I simply want them to know that. And like my dear sister said to me today she is not my father. I must do something to move on.
It isn’t that easy to move on. First we must heal. Then we must figure out how to live! We must face the fact that we are creating our own legacy.
These conversations about family legacy force this question: What do I want to leave my precious children with when I am gone?
Here are a few things I thought of today in no particular order:
- I want my kids to feel like home is a safe place. This means I will be there when they cry, listen when they talk to me, offer advice or just an ear when they have a problem they don’t understand. I want to be available for them day-to-day.
- I want my kids to know that they can change anything about their life and they have personal power. That they are in control of their bodies and can eat healthily, exercise and keep in control of their weight. I must teach this by my example. (Sigh.)
- I want my kids to know they have the intelligence to accomplish anything they set their mind to if they are willing to work hard.
- I want my kids to feel that our home was a welcoming place for others — their friends, our friends, even strangers. If so then our home should be a place where anyone is welcome, anytime. My kids need so see me listening attentively to my elderly neighbor with love and respect, bringing a meal to a sick friend or neighbor, opening my heart and our home and welcoming others in. That means keeping the house tidy and if it isn’t “clean enough” then lighten-up. Relationships are more important.
- I want to pass on our love for music, literature and the arts, so I need to think about creating spaces in our life that cultivates this. This means setting aside time intentionally for bedtime reading (before they or I are falling into bed dead tired). This will mean buying tickets to the symphony and visiting more museums and shows. Showing them this great love that we have.
- I want to pass on my passion for social, racial and gender justice and live my life in such a way they understand how important it is. I want it to be as natural and right to them as breathing.
- We want to live our lives so that our children know how important it is to treat every person with dignity, kindness and respect.
- I want to regularly and passionately affirm the good in my children — not superficial qualities but those things that are a part of your core person.
- We want our children to have empathetic hearts so that they see other’s needs and willingly, lovingly meet them.
- I want our children to know that being a follower of Jesus was the central motivation for my life and that knowing and loving Yahweh changed me. It transformed me and made me the person that I am and it set my life’s priorities.
Whether we set aside time to consider it and be intentional, or not, we are building a legacy for our children every day in how we treat one another and prioritize our time and money. Even so we have no control over what our children remember about us. My father would certainly be heartbroken to know what I recall most about him — the yelling more than the hugs, the disappointment I thought he expressed to me over the affirmations that also came.
What will we be remembered for and what will we leave behind? I only have a few more years with my children under my roof. I want to keep thinking about this. When my children are remembering Tom and me, what will their most powerful memories be? What about you? How do you hope your children, family and community will remember you?