Back when I was a new mom with a young toddler, I attended the funeral of a family friend. During the service, this man’s sixteen-year-old son gave his eulogy, which was pretty impressive. But what struck me even more was the WAY this boy spoke about his father.
Granted, it was a funeral, where he was expected to highlight the goodness in his father’s life. But I could feel by the way this boy talked that his dad was nothing short of a hero to him and everyone who knew him.
He told story after story about acts of service his father had given and what a great father and husband he was. As he talked about lessons he had learned from this man’s words and actions, I could tell it wasn’t just talk. This boy wanted to be an excellent man, with kindness and wisdom, like his father. He would use the example he had been given in those sixteen short years to guide the remainder of his life.
A Profound Impact
I marveled at the relationship these two had—how even as a teenager, he hung on his father’s words and longed to have more time with him. I knew he would always look back on the memory of his dad with honor and respect. It had a profound impact on me. At the time, I was studying poetry, so many of my thoughts were recorded as such. This is what I wrote that night:
Young boy, on the verge of manhood,
Speaks of a man,
with pride in his heart.
The man, known to him as “Father”,
Was admired by all,
and adored by the boy.
And I, listening in awe,
Only hope someday to be
so revered by my child.
It maybe wasn’t my best work poetically, but it did convey my feelings. As a young mother, like so many others, I wanted desperately to be a great mom; to give my child the best life and help her grow into a good person. I didn’t know exactly how that was going to happen, and it seemed like a daunting task at times. But I would definitely give it my best.
Life moved forward. More children came. Things got busy, and most of the time I felt stretched to my limits physically and emotionally. Tragedies came, celebrations happened, and in between there was a lot of daily grind. Many of those days, I didn’t feel like I was a good parent. I stressed over decisions and struggled with behavior problems and sometimes felt like I was just faking it.
But no matter what was going on in my personal life or in our family, I’ve always had that little beacon in the back of my mind, reminding me of my ultimate goal—to leave a legacy behind that I and my children would be proud of. I can’t count the times that thought has gone through my head, giving me direction I needed. I can’t say that I’ve always been successful, but it sure has helped.
I was brought back again to this experience after reading an article about George H.W. Bush’s funeral. The author talks about the things that mattered to Bush’s son, George W. Bush, as he gave his father’s eulogy.
“In the eulogy George W didn’t mention once that his parents made sure he had organic food his whole life, or had Pinterest worthy birthday parties, or the perfect monogrammed matching outfits with his siblings. He didn’t mention that his parents made sure their week was planned with playdates and millions of extracurricular activities.”
What mattered most to George W was his father’s character, his devotion to the family, and his love for their mother.
I reflected on other funerals I’ve been to over the years, and I never remember hearing anyone say they were proud of how much money their parent made or loved how much time they spent at work. It seems that what mattered most to George W is important to all of us in the end.
Thinking about this reminded me again of my own legacy I am building. It strengthened my resolve to be the kind of person I want my children to remember. As I begin this new year, I am making some changes and improvements in myself. I’m trying to refocus my life on those things which will be most important in the end.
I encourage my readers to examine your lives, too. What kind of legacy are you leaving?
Whether you have children or your legacy will be left in some other way, some memory of you will linger in the hearts of those who knew you in this life. What will they remember? What will be said of your character? Are you living in the way that you want to be memorialized through time? Are you speaking the words you want associated with you? Is your behavior something you can look back on and be proud of? … that your posterity can be proud of?