Reflections: Leaving a Legacy
Adjusting to life alone after 67 years of marriage, Beth spoke of weekly visits with her grown children and their families. They have been a lifeline, along with her grandchildren. Yet the coldness she feels from her daughter, who lets Beth know that picking her up and including her for two dinners a week is a burden she cannot continue indefinitely. And that there is no room for Mom on family vacations.
Feeling the sting of not being wanted without reservation during her time of intense grief, Beth said, I’ve called the lawyer about having her taken out of the will. What do you think?
I offered that a will can be thought of in two ways. As a measure of performance. An assessment of how a child has measured up to our expectations or to meeting our needs. Or, a will can be a way of affirming a parent’s unconditional love. Whatever the amount involved, leaving an unqualified blessing through the rest of life. While, in the meantime, sharing our feelings directly with grace as well as honesty.
Of course, we are not obligated to leave all our worldly possessions to our next generation/s. What’s best for them, when they are young children or as adults, is not always to give them as much as possible, but to do what is best for them in developing responsibility and character and faith.
Jesus’ story of the “shrewd manager” (Luke 16:1-13) points us to use worldly wealthy for eternal benefits. Our giving to efforts that further the Gospel can continue after death (as Mary Butcher has so graciously shown).
The heavenly Father is an example for us even here. Romans 8 notes that we are his heirs, and even co-heirs with Christ, to share his eternal glory. Ephesians 1 assures us that the Holy Spirit within is a deposit guaranteeing our heavenly inheritance. We are told of rewards for our earthly efforts as well, and of one day facing an assessment before Christ. But within the safety of his mercy and the full measure of acceptance.
This leads to the bigger question of how we want to leave a legacy. Leaving tangible assets can be a part of this. But more formative can be our expressions at family reunions or gatherings. Sharing family roots and stories. Writing our affirmations. And finishing strong as examples in our faith and love.