It has been six months now since my mom’s death. These months have been an odd blending of sorrow, celebration and deep introspection. I have found it extremely peculiar how all of these things coexist with such intensity and rise to the surface most very unexpectedly. The one that has captured my attention to the greatest extent is the need for quiet contemplation.
In these times of introspection, the idea of legacy has become a reoccurring theme for me. This is really nothing new for me. Throughout my life, this idea has made its appearance at many different times and for many different reasons.
One of the first times I can remember thinking about this was after my grandmother’s death. In the months and years that followed, I would listen to my mom, her brothers and sisters in conversation about their mom. They would reminisce about her and her life with such love, respect, pride and admiration.
I know her life well; married at 17, a widow at 47, raised three young daughters on her own and began working outside the home for the first time in her life at age 48. In the midst of her daunting circumstance she prevailed triumphantly. She is always remembered as hard-working, resilient, determined, kind, compassionate, graced with wisdom and in possession of a deep inner strength.
I never have to think very hard to recall these attributes/virtues of my grandmother because they are visibly present in her children. In countless ways their lives are witness to the priceless gifts she left to them. The gifts possess a collective value that can’t be quantified; nor will the breadth and depth of them be ever truly known. I suspect her wonderful spirit and the gifts she bequeathed will be evident in future generations, even though they may be quite unaware of how they were acquired or whom they originated with.
In preparing for my mom’s funeral Mass, I was given the privilege of being the one to say a few words about my mom and her life before the beginning of mass. To my amazement, those words flowed like water, and what should be shared was crystal clear. My mom was a healer by profession, but it was also her inherent nature; she embraced the stranger, she appreciated the beauty in all of life, was adventurous, possessed a deep inner strength and a resilience that resembled that of her mom.
My mom, just as her mother before her, has left to the world treasures that were easily seen; and one that may not have been as overt but was present – and maybe more powerful than the rest – is faith. Neither my mom nor my grandmother were very vocal about their faith but, instead, it was present and was woven into the fabric of their lives. It was spoken quietly but always spoke volumes.
The truth of our lives is that every day we are living legacy not only in the gifts that we have been given by others but in the creation of our own. I think our legacy is etched out for each of us by those things that we embrace, what we deem as valuable, what we have given the most importance to, what occupies our time and our thoughts, those things that we are most passionate about, those we cherish and what we love. Each day we are creating in our own lives the things that will live on –our own legacy.
As people of faith our greatest legacy is that which was given to us 2,000 years ago in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I think that, as his disciples, we must ask ourselves often, What of his life has been woven into the very fabric of mine, and how does my life every day give witness to the gifts that were left behind for me to share?” A man of great faith, Brother Eugene Phillips C.S.C once shared his inspiration for living this legacy of faith – thinking often that when his time here was done that he wanted to be greeted with these words “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master”. Matthew 25:23 I think of these words often; and each day when my feet hit the floor, I pray as so many of the faithful have done before me – and as all of you pray – for the grace and strength to live the legacy well.