One of the hardest things in life is facing death.
Though it’s inevitable, death never seems right. It never gets easier to handle and it never seems like we’ve had enough time with the ones we love.
I lost my aunt this week.
She’d been struggling with cancer for the past year and a half and although she fought hard last year, recently she said she knew it was her time to go. I saw her in the hospital a couple of weeks ago and as I held her head to my chest we both cried. The unspoken spoken. We knew she was nearing the end of her journey here on earth.
From her hospital bed she handed me a bright orange envelope with my name on it. It was my belated birthday card. She said that even though the girl in the picture was wearing orange shoes, for me they should have been red. We laughed as I told her that just the day before I had actually worn orange shoes so the card was perfect.
This morning I opened the card and reread it. “My prayers go with you all the days of my life.” Tears poured down my cheeks again as I was reminded that she really did pray for me. A lot. That’s one of the forever gifts she gave me.
I’ve been pondering the importance of legacy the past couple of days.
Of course it’s not a new concept, but at a time of loss the only thing I have left from her is the deposit she’s left on the inside of me.
I’ve been reminiscing about her being one of the first female students to attend and graduate from a seminary here in Portland, Oregon. With her master's degree in hand, she sought to become an even better educator.
I’ve been reminiscing about her living in Brazil as a new wife and mother, leaving behind all she knew while courageously struggling to adapt to a culture that was foreign to her. But she did it, even with two young sons, the youngest who was born with Down Syndrome.
I’ve been reminiscing about the time when I was eight years old and got to spend the day with her in inner city San Francisco when she was a new teacher back in the late 60’s. With a multi-ethnic classroom, she was a forerunner in education, passionate about making learning fun for her students, all the while modeling to me what it looked like to be a vibrant, courageous, adventurous, risk-taking woman who loved making a difference.
Never have the words “more is caught than taught” been more true than they are right now.
Without knowing it then, my aunt was teaching me as much, if not more, than her students. She let me get up close to her while she was doing what she loved. She let me smell what she smelled, see what she saw, hear what she heard.
This leads me to ask myself, and invite you as well, to honestly answer the question:
What kind of legacy am I leaving?
The reality is that though none of us will be around forever physically, we all leave a trail behind that leads the way for the next generation. As a dad to a daughter, you will be around forever in the deposit you leave in your daughter’s life.
I would encourage you to clarify anew today what exactly you want your daughter to hold inside herself as a gift from you for the rest of her life.
- Finish this sentence below and then write it on a card that sits on your desk
- Take a picture of what you write and look at it daily on your phone
- Tell her what it is you want her to never forget about why you love her
You never know when a day may be your last. Let today be the day you renew your focus to invest in your daughter’s life daily by choosing to intentionally deposit that which you want her to forever remember about you.
Be specific about how your love deposit will be expressed. And may the way you complete this sentence guide what you say and do from this day forward:
At the end of my life, if my daughter had only one thing to say about me,
I’d want it to be...
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