Updated: May 18, 2020
My husband and I were just in Colorado this weekend for his grandmother’s funeral. It was a lovely service celebrating a long life that was well-lived. We sat in a beautiful chapel, one in which his grandma, Ottilie Seeber, had been the Chair of the Building Committee. The chapel was packed full of people who loved and respected Ottilie. One by one, each of her children and grandchildren spoke to us from the front of the room, sharing fond memories of the mama and grandma who had left a great impression on their lives.
There was so much that this incredible woman accomplished in her life. She had graduated from college in a time when not many women pursued a degree. She was an educator. She was very involved in her church and the community. She was active in politics in her county. She was the president of so many organizations and committees. But despite all her accomplishments, what her family spoke of most was her unconditional love. They spoke of the way that she made each one of them feel so special and instilled confidence in them. They spoke of the fun and adventure that she created for them. They spoke of the safety and comfort of her home. They spoke of the way that she taught them to dream and encouraged them to achieve those dreams. She inspired them not just through the strength, wisdom, and perseverance that she modeled, but also through the unique and faithful ways that she loved each one of them individually.
As I sat and listened to the stories, I began to reflect on memories of my own grandmother who passed away 9 years ago. Doris Johnson, my Grammy, was also a woman of great strength. She had the courage to leave an abusive marriage and move her five young children across the country to begin a new life. She worked hard to provide and care for her children alone. She didn't have much other than her faith to carry her through, but she persisted. As her children grew and started families of their own, she was the glue that held the family together. Her home was a safe place for people to return to. She gathered us together for holidays, housed people through different seasons, and taught us to play Dominos at her kitchen table. She took care of us and supported us. She was present for us in any way we needed. Grammy loved us unconditionally.
As I think about these two amazing women, I can’t help but think about the legacies they left. Though they were both strong, intelligent women who worked hard and accomplished a lot, the most powerful thing they leave behind is the way that they loved. There are people who would not be the same if it were not for the love they received from each of these women. We were encouraged, motivated, and challenged by the way that they loved us.
We each leave behind a legacy as we leave this life. This legacy is not just about how we are remembered, but it is what we pass on to the people who remain. The greatest thing we can leave behind is the way that we loved people. It is our love (or lack of love) that will have the greatest impact on the people we come into contact with. Love has the power to build up, heal, restore, and inspire. It can lead us to become the people that we were created to be. Love can help us to thrive, and sometimes it is the only thing allowing us to survive. Love gives us the strength to keep moving forward and the courage to pursue what seems unattainable. When we know that we are loved, we are free, brave, at peace, and full of hope.
I want to love people in that way. I want to leave that kind of legacy.
You cannot wait until the end of your life to decide what your legacy will be. The way you live your life right now and every day is what determines the legacy you leave behind. What is the legacy that you are creating today?
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3