Have you ever thought about what legacy you are going to leave behind? No, I’m not talking about where you leave your money (if any) when you die, or even how much you donate to worthy causes while you’re still alive, though I hope you do! This has nothing to do with money, at all (except, as always, that how we handle our material resources can reveal quite a lot about our character and true priorities).
Nor am I talking about whether they’ll remember you as a nice person (though I hope we will all be remembered as loving, kind, patient, generous people). I want to go a little further, add one more adjective. What will be your eternal legacy? How has the life you live affected other people – as C. S. Lewis famously said:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
Many, many years ago I was arrested by a question I read or heard somewhere, “If you were to die tonight, what legacy would you leave your children?” It is a question worth pondering, not just for parents (though, as a young mum that was my chief concern at the time), but in all our relationships, in every interaction in our daily lives we are potentially leaving a legacy in other people’s lives, and none of us know which moments will be weighty with influence. In response to that question I wrote a poem to put together my thoughts on the matter. I hope that, by the grace of God, my response was more than thoughts and words.
THE LEGACY - A LETTER TO MY CHILDREN
If these, my limbs, I lay them down tonight,
Should (‘tis a fancy) sullen-stiff in death;
If this, my only heart, should cease to throb,
These, my now-words, become my final breath;
What should I leave you? Ah, my dears, my dears!
Warm arms? (But they are easily replaced.)
A listening ear? (Yes, those, I grant, are few.)
The swiftly fading memory of a face?
O, little ones, my motherhood is small,
But ah, my dreams are large! For you I claim
A heritage among the vasty stars,
A hope so great I scarce can speak its name!
What should I leave you? Nothing hands can hold.
But I may wish for you a burning joy,
To slice the swamped complaisance from your days;
A dream that drudgery cannot destroy.
Success? I care not! But I so much care,
That you should have integrity of soul.
Embrace that truth which casts all falsehood out.
Disdain hypocrisy. Strive to be whole.
I care that you should love, not carelessly,
But deeply, past your comfort's customed span;
To lay your life down for another's sake,
For such is the true measure of a man.
Though all these fail, one thing, one thing I pray:
That you should know the God Whom I have known,
Not as a nursery tale, Reality!
For this my prayers, for this my tears are sown;
That you might harvest-reap! To know Him, Whom
To know is life eternal, Jesus Christ,
In Whom, possessing, you possess all things.
Then might I die, and know my own have life!