One of my all-time favorite songs is "Legacy" by Nichole Nordeman (this one is an acoustic version, which is pretty cool---listen to it a million different ways).
The lyrics talk about how the trappings of the world and how seeing your name in lights can be tempting to look at as the marks of what we have made on this world. You know the drill: how big is your house? How much money did you make? How many friends do you have on Facebook or followers on Twitter?
But her lyrics remind us to look at something so very different:
I want to leave a legacy,
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough?
To make a mark on things
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace
Who blessed Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy
What are these legacies and why are they so important? I think it's because the legacies that have been left TO me make up who I choose to be every single day.
Today happens to be my dad's 88th birthday. He is still alive, living in San Antonio (aka "my homeland filled with the nectar of the gods: Tex-Mex food"). His health is poor, but I will call him in a little while to wish him a happy birthday and to tell him that I am ever so grateful for the impact he has had on my life. Daddy and Mother were musicians who were always involved in quartets and bands and church choir (she on the piano, he on clarinet and saxophone) when they were married. There was always music in our house (classical, jazz, '70s, lullabies, not much rock and roll) even when their marriage hit the skids and they were on their way to a divorce when I was nine years old. My dad was a band director his entire career, and a damn good one at that. His marching and concert bands always won awards, all over the state of Texas, and he is still so proud of that. I am too. I know I must have been a bit of a disappointment to them (I tried piano lessons, and I can plunk out melodies just fine, but I was much more into choir--"my voice IS my instrument", I would quip). If you ever had a chance to watch my mother play the piano---whew! what a blessing, indeed! Her hands would fly across the entire keyboard and the passion with which she played was undeniable. I love all sorts of music, now, some of that appreciation I know came from them.
Another legacy that sticks with me is the legacy I receive every time I am blessed enough to stand in front of a group of teachers or school leaders or professors and teach and learn about good teaching. "Learn?" you might ask. What are YOU learning if you are teaching? I happen to believe fully in the fact that the people I am attempting to inspire sometimes wind up inspiring me the most. That happened in Saskatchewan this past week. While the group was talking about teachers who had impacted their lives the most, one teacher (in the middle of a group of 52 teachers, many she didn't know) stood up and told the story of a teacher who made her feel broken and unworthy. She began crying as she talked about that impact and how, instead of making her hate school, that experience prodded her to become better. She said, "I will NEVER do to my students what that teacher did to me!" Now that's a legacy. I talked to her a bit later, and she shared her strong feelings about how to care for students in a way that sometimes their own parents can't care for them. It reminded me of Claudia Edgerton, who was my 5th grade teacher (a blessing in my life right after my parents got divorced). Mrs. Edgerton (with whom I am now Facebook friends, as another blessing) wrote me little notes every week to say how proud of me she was and how much she loved having me in class. She also talked quite personally with me about how tough it must be to go back and forth between my mom's house to my dad's house. In other words, she "got me". I knew then I was going to become a teacher who had a passion for making students feel good about themselves as much as she had a passion for reading and math. That is a legacy that has carried me through so many tough times as an educator.
Finally, I want to talk about the legacy of love. Oh, please don't ask me wax philosophically on all the "loves" I had in my life. My first REAL boyfriend was in 8th grade, and I had a few after that, including one in college who is still a dear friend. But when I met Dave, I think something inside me switched on that had never been part of me before. I knew I had met my companion for life. Well, for a while, we were dance partners and great friends, until the night he asked, "Are you ready to screw up an amazing friendship?" Yes!!! We've been married for over 27 years, now, and I can honestly say he is my ROCK. He was there for my mother when I wasn't strong enough to be there for Mother alone. He was there for me when Mother died, and I wasn't certain I was going to be able to do all that had to be done. He put pink ribbons on our three Labs when I was diagnosed with cancer, laughed with me about all the silly things I worried about, and held my hand and prayed with me before my multiple breast cancer surgeries. What is Dave's legacy? Loving unconditionally. We rescue and foster Labs together. We make each other laugh; he holds me when I cry; those are legacies that can't be replicated. He loves my best friends almost as much as I do and even puts up with our annoying fits of laughter. Dave and I were floundering to find a church home in Tucson two years ago. We went to talk to a priest at the closest Episcopal church, and we both fell in love with Debra, our priest. We are now members of the church, and I have just agreed to be part of the Vestry there. Dave's willingness to be my everything, my partner for life, and the person with whom God has blessed our time together will live on eternally for me.
What is your legacy? What will you leave behind when you are no longer here?
I think about this notion of "legacy" every so often---what will people say about me after I am gone? I pray that it is something akin to "Well done, good and faithful servant".