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Posts Tagged ‘leaving a legacy’

Jo 17Recently, courtesy of a new DVD player and an old video converted to a DVD, I was able to view my parents’ Golden Wedding celebration in 1989 once again. My cousin who filmed it had caught snippets of conversation as she slowly panned around the room, surprising aunties, uncles, cousins and close friends in mid-sentence. What an eye-opener it all was!

First off, there was the shock of seeing our clothes and hairstyles back then—not to mention my ornate glasses I must have thought were so stylish! And my sister and I looked … well … so very young! I actually had dark brown hair back then—what could have happened?

But immediately too so many memories came flooding back, as I saw the faces of my aunties and uncles, some friendly and interested, some a little aloof, and heard the familiar tone of their voices again. One aunty was holding forth on all sorts of matters and sounding so definite, as she always had. Another beautiful, gentle aunty sat smiling and listening quietly, as she let the conversation wash over her. There was an uncle too, passionately expounding on some issue, while nobody around him seemed greatly interested. And yet another aunty sat back with an almost amused look, keeping her usual slight distance between herself and everyone else. What an important part of our lives they all were during my growing-up years! Was the extended family more important back then?

As I watched and listened, however, I was shocked to realise that, apart from one cousin, my sister, me, and those of our children who were able to be present, not one of those there that day is still with us. Of course, I should have known that was inevitable. After all, most were around the same vintage as my parents—and they were celebrating fifty years of marriage. But how are they being remembered now? What difference did they make in this world? No doubt they each left some money or possessions to family members, but what sort of lasting impact did they have on those close to them and others whose lives they touched?

My mind then turned to my own life. My husband and I have celebrated our own Golden Wedding now and, soon enough, our whole generation will no longer be here on earth either. So what sort of legacy will I leave behind? How is my life impacting those close to me and those I meet along the way in all sorts of contexts?

There is a particular verse I would like read out at my funeral that I hope and pray will be true of my life when it ends:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

When my time comes, I hope I will be remembered as being more like that lovely, gentle aunty of mine than the one who tended to tell us what to do. I hope I leave a positive legacy behind and that family and friends have felt encouraged by me in their own journeys rather than discouraged. I hope I finish well, still engaged in that fight and still honouring God with my whole heart.

Is that your hope too?

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Not long after my early novels were published, someone said to me: ‘What a wonderful legacy to leave behind for others!’ Such a thought had never occurred to me—I was so focused on the moment, wondering what my current market would be like. Anyway, if my books did survive for another generation, they would probably be tucked away in some dark corner, regarded as hopelessly old-fashioned and not worth reading.

But this week, this idea of touching a generation other than our own was brought home to me in two quite different ways.

The first occurred when I was researching some authors mentioned in my current non-fiction book. There was the English woman mystic, Julian of Norwich, who lived from around 1342 to 1416. At thirty years of age, she had a series of visions or ‘showings’ which she recorded soon after. Then, having reflected on them for twenty years, she wrote an expanded version called Revelations of Divine Love, which is still available and read today, along with many of her sayings such as ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’ And there was also Teresa of Avila, a Spanish nun who lived a little later (1515 – 1582) and founded a Carmelite order. Her sayings are also often quoted, such as ‘Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God’—or, as it is sometimes translated, ‘All things pass away; God never changes.’ Now in no way do I claim to be a Julian or a Teresa (!)—yet I was encouraged to see that all these centuries later, their words still speak to so many people.

And the second occurred on Australia Day, which was also my grandfather’s birthday. I remembered how he used to tell us grandchildren that the public holiday was really to commemorate his birthday! But I remembered other things too then—how my grandfather left each grandchild a special letter, written in his beautiful copperplate handwriting, urging us, among other things, to have faith in God. And I also remembered how I loved to sit on the floor near where he was reading and go through all the old things in a nearby cupboard on which a large bookcase rested. I was fascinated by the old hardcover books I found there—books like Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and of course Lorna Doone. You see, R D Blackmore, the author of Lorna Doone, was my grandfather’s great-great-uncle! These books seemed so mysterious and almost other worldly—I can still remember their musty smell and how I would turn their pages almost reverently. They impacted me and no doubt fostered my love of books, even though I found them difficult to read at that age.

Yes, my books will get musty and crumble away too and no doubt end their days in some recycling bin. All things do pass away, except God, as Teresa of Avila wrote. And as Jesus himself declared:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matt 24:35)

Unlike mine, Jesus’ words will ring out down through eternity and will never lose their impact. But I like to think that one day some young girl will sit in front of a cupboard and find my old books there—and maybe even see in their pages something that draws her closer to her heavenly Father and touches her heart. What a privilege that would be!

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