The writer Madeleine L’Engle and the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti
both died last Thursday. They left
behind them a body of artistic work, a legacy which will impact the lives of
When one dies, what is left?
How does one take the measure of the dash between the dates on the
The stuff holds
little significance to me. The sum total
of my inheritance from my parents was a Bible, a few photos, a few books and
some mimeographed correspondence between my father and mother. What I inherited, what they both gave me, is an abiding faith
in God, a passion for words, a home saturated with good music, the tactile pleasure of
holding a baby, a nasty habit of procrastination, an irresistible impulse to
buy books, genuine pleasure in hospitality, an easy ability to gain weight, an avoidance of conflict, a tendency
to approach work in fits and starts and a hundred other traits which can be both
annoying and endearing.
When my mother died, her artistic work was her children and the people who came into her everyday life. She wasn’t famous, but she did leave a significant monument of love in the hearts of those who knew her.
The passing of a public person is a moment when death demands center stage and gets your attention; you can avoid it, evade it — but there it stands, waiting to be faced.
My husband and I did just
that while driving yesterday. We
talked about the future day when the doctor says, “This is
it. The big one. Put your affairs in order.” We wondered if we would be compelled to spend
$30K to prolong life three months. We
talked about the lives of our sons, about the present state of our family. We affirmed our appreciation for the years we’ve
had together; recounted the many ways we’ve seen the goodness and kindness of
God displayed in our lives. We mentioned
the regrets, not for our circumstances but for the sin of which we have been
slow to repent.
In short, we spoke our
farewells to one another, banking them into a memory deposit box. If one of us were to be taken in an instant,
we would have this day to look back on, these words to hear in our memory. I hope we take many more opportunities to say the words, and I look on this day as a practice round.
Again, what remains? When the body is gone, what footprints will linger?
Our pastor tells his children, “When God saved me He was pursuing you, even before you were born.”
That’s it. All I have, I have been given. Just like a great-aunt’s great diamond ring, I want to pass on the gifts that I’ve
received to those who come along after me.
Children are their parent’s heirs;
the mercies of God are not the least part
of the parents’ treasure,
nor the least of children’s inheritance,
being helps for their faith,
matter for their praise,
and spurs to their obedience.
Indeed, as children are their parents’ heirs,
so they become in justice liable to pay their parents’ debts.
The great debt of the saint at death
is that which he owes God for His mercies.
Therefore it is but reason that parent should
tie children to the payment thereof.
~ William Gurnall