What is Left?

I’ve been thinking about life, death, meaning and
memories. 

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
our great-grandchildren. 

When one dies, what is left? 

How does one take the measure of the dash between the dates on the
tombstone? 

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

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11 thoughts on “What is Left?

  1. Oh! This is filled with gems, Carol!  You write well.
    Yup, even in my postion as a doctor’s wife/daughter, I still dont think I’ve been exposed to death/dying the way previous generations have.  We, Modernists and Post-Modernists, just dont get it.
    It’s always the ones closest in age that shock.  Like the 51 yr old male we knew who died unexpectedly last week.  He’d seen the doctor the previous Wednesday.  Autopsy showed pulmonary embolism. 
    I’m going to work on those regrets…the ones where I’m slow to repent.  And this one is going in the copy book –
    “When God saved me He was pursuing you, even before you were born.” 
    Blessings fm GA,Dana

  2. *Random Post*
      Elusive and beautiful blog!
    You are totally right, so many people think too much about staying alive when we should think about what mark we can leave on someone’s life.
    Hope to check your blog again real soon!
    Jade Orchid

  3. Yep, that pastor’s quote is a keeper.
    Your post makes me cry for my SIL, who, a month ago, abandoned her husband (of 25 years) and 4 good kids to “make her own mark in the world”.  Who lied to her and said those 5 family members weren’t enough?

  4. Just last week I spoke in Dana’s comments about death.
    I’ll share a little here, too.  Cause I am acquainted with it in a unique way.
    My parents died in a car accident when I was sixteen.  My mother was only 39 and my father was 46. 
    What they left behind has been the lesson of my life.
    They left their great love for their children and one another.
    They left behind an example of loving that continues to flurish and spread.
    They left the idea that family is important.
    They left this behind in their seven children and their friends.  They were beloved.
    Since these were the gifts of their leaving, I have never fretted about what I will leave behind…as in material things or success. 
    Coupled with my love for God.  My parents excellent example showed me early on….what was of worth.
    If I can leave behind the memory  that I loved God and others with all my heart…I will rest easily.
    What else matters?

  5. Donna, your parents’ legacy is alive and well – embodied in you and your siblings. What I mean, is I can see the flourishing love you mentioned in *your writing* and in your siblings’ comments and in the *camaraderie* between you, which is evident to anyone with eyes.The D is for Dandy quote from your Dad is so precious and yet…so familiar. Because you are one of THE BEST cheerleaders (encourager) I know. You encourage others so naturally because you were raised with that kind of encouragement.Thank you for your comments.

  6. Stop it! Y’all are making me teary. 
    You two have a bond:  that of losing a parent at an early age.
    I know I’m ready to meet the Lord, but I think everyone back on earth would be mad at me because of my messy basement 😦 

  7. I saw “magistra” on your page and immediately I had all these flashbacks from Latin class. My teacher, Magistra Cognetti (as we called her)was very dear and elegant in every way. what lovely memories!this book that you have recommended on friendship, I think i must get it. Almost all day today i despaired before God because I lack a true and faithful woman friend, perhaps this book might just show me how i am lacking these very things?I am glad you were on the recommended xangas list. I hardly ever come on here anymore, but I perhaps I’ll start coming around more often! There is some worthwhile content after all!GOD bless you!

  8. I, too, am glad I came across Xanga’s recommended list. I’ve subscribed to your xanga. Your writing is incredible. I loved this post–what a calming read. Your pastor’s quote brought tears to my eyes and they continue as I write this. It brought back memories of my parents’ training me as a child, the recent loss of my father, and the sadness my mother still experiences after 56 years of marriage to him. It brought thoughts of my own children and gave a great reminder to me that my primary role in their lives is to insure that they join me around the throne of God, praising Him for His love, mercy and redemption. The greatest legacy that I can leave is that I was a man who loved God, his wife, his children, and others with whom he had contact. I pray that people will be able to say about me when I am gone that I looked like my Father.Thanks for your posts. They are warming and inspiring. God bless you, teacher.

  9. This is beautiful. Very thought provoking and insightful. I hope you don’t mind if I save it–I’d like to refer back to much that you said, your pastor’s quote, and the poem.Thank-you

  10. Carol,That was beautiful. I’ve spent much time thinking about this too. My mother left behind the legacy of a servant’s heart and a Mother’s love for her children. Her name is remembered to this day by those who know us and who knew her. The only thing that will survive me is the children and grandchildren I leave behind. My hope and prayer is that they will know God and know the great love He has for us. I have been blessed so far with two children who walk in His path. It is more than I deserve and I thank God for His grace.Material things? I cannot think of a thing of my Mother’s that I have that is as important to me as her love and her faith. I can’t think of a material thing I own today that could be important to my children.Thanks for sharing your deep thoughts with us.Blessings,Sandy

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