What do you do in a cabin in the woods, with relatively few resources and a room full of great-grandchildren? If you are my 80-something year old mother, you grab the Sunday paper and start folding.
I joined in and we laughed as we tried to remember how to craft these nostalgic head pieces. It took several attempts to make one hat, but when the kids saw what we were up to, they wanted in. Eight caps later, we were transformed into sailors of a sort marching towards my daughter’s cabin chanting “We want funnel cakes, we want funnel cakes.”
And as I’ve done so many times before, I neatly folded and tucked the memory away in my mind, knowing someday I’d want to retrieve it, read it and repeat it. Someday, if I’m blessed enough to be surrounded by great-grandchildren, I’d want to recall what “GG” did when she was in my shoes. All my adult life I’ve been recalling what GG does. Sometimes subconsciously, sometimes intentionally. But she has unwittingly guided me into most of the best moments I’ve known as a parent.
This is her legacy. Her gift to her children, and their children, and their children. This unwritten manual of how to live and love and be. What better inheritance can a parent leave a child?
And as I’ve relied on her tender instruction to “show me the way,” I’ve become acutely aware that one day, perhaps even already, my own children will follow me the way I follow mom. And the thought is both daunting and intimidating. Whether I want to or not, I am also building a legacy. And I want it to be a good one.
I carry with me now, a legacy perspective. It is the lens through which I view the present with the refraction of the future. And I live accordingly. So when someone questions how I’ve been able to share my home with my daughter, her husband and their four children for the past 3 years, the answer is simple. This isn’t about today. It’s about tomorrow. About how my children and grandchildren will remember this time. My life is my story, and they will be revisiting it’s pages one day. When they open that book I want them to find joy and wisdom and strength and love and encouragement and hope. I want it to be full of happy memories and unwavering faith and gentle guidance. This isn’t just any old fairy tale. This is my legacy. And in so many ways, it is also my mother’s.
And the beauty is that this is something anyone can do. Any one. Regardless of the past or brokenness or mistakes. Regardless of income or education or health. We are the general contractor of our own legacy. We don’t have to accept shoddy construction. We can be careful and intentional with each brick that is placed, each page that is written.
That same morning, in the busy cabin room, my mother connected her iPod to speakers and proceeded to play her favorite tunes, songs she is careful not to play too frequently, lest she tire of them. She futilely attempted to silence the room for one song in particular. A song I’d never heard before… one she’d discovered on a trip to Nova Scotia with my father. Her face lit up as the first verse concluded, chorus ensued. “Here it comes!” she anticipated and she raised both arms as if conducting some unseen orchestra, and with eyes fixed upward she sang along. Above the din of the kids, I heard the words:
We rise again in the faces of our children,
We rise again in the voices of our song,
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean,
And then we rise again.
“Rise Again” by Leon Dubinsky
I do not know what captivated my mother, if it was the melody, or the message, or the memory that came to mind. But I know what choked my throat and wet my eyes. The beautiful truth that a life well lived never really leaves. That through her legacy, the best in my mother will “rise again” in her children and their children. And that, Lord willing, GG will be visible for many generations to come.
And so, perhaps, will I.