(image courtesy of viewbug.com)
There are times, though not very often, when I think about what kind of mark I will leave on the world. Will my wife remember me as a partner who adored her? Will my kids recall me with fondness? Did I allow enough of my heart to be transparent; so that through the ups and downs of life my family will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my love for them never wavered?
With regard to ministry; how will the people God placed in my life and under my care remember me? My desire has always been that they know my everyday intention is to have God glorified through what we shared together. Have I lived out the Gospel in such a way that Christ is more fully in their hearts through what I have taught?
As I said, these types of thoughts don’t rattle through my brain too often. Yet as I have mentioned here before, as I draw ever more away from the start of my life and closer to its human end, thinking about my legacy does happen from time to time.
This most recent journey into this recess of my mind has come about because of an individual I met last week. I received a request from a family in hospice care that they wanted a pastoral care visit. No more details were given me, so I on the drive to their home some of the more usual questions and my responses to them went through mind. You see, the full awareness of one’s time being up on earth has a definite tendency to focus thoughts about the process of dying and what may lay beyond.
As I was greeted by the sad smile of the caregiver, I felt as ready as I could be to meet the patient. Was I wrong!
That’s not to say I was totally off base. Some things were as expected. I was introduced to a patient who was obviously near death. The frail and gaunt body told me all I needed to know about the physical condition: Cancer was wreaking its usual havoc at the end stage of life.
But this is not the memory I will carry from this meeting. What touched me so deeply was the absolute peace this person exuded. Though in obvious pain that the meds couldn’t alleviate, his eyes fixed on me with more care than I have seen in a long, long time.
We chatted briefly about the journey through life; of the many places seen because of work and family. I am always blessed when folks share these personal nuggets from their past. Losing track of time, I probably could have sat there all afternoon. But the conversation lagged and then stopped. I wondered if it was time for me to excuse myself, thinking that fatigue and pain were winning out.
What became apparent next was that it wasn’t tiredness that had quieted our chat, but rather that the patient was gathering the strength he needed to finish our time together the way he wanted it to end.
As best as I can remember, this is what he said to me: “Tell your parishioners this, ‘Think of others more than yourself. Be ready and willing to help out in practical ways. Don’t simply tell people that you love them, live your love for them in front of their very eyes. I made this my primary goal in life, and as my time here is up, I am so very glad I did.’”
It was crystal clear to me that these weren’t merely words said in an attempt to comfort oneself when faced with imminent death. They were spoken with a genuine desire that they be shared so that others could see what I was witnessing; peace. Peace from a life well lived.
What an incredible legacy! I share this with you, my Faithful Readers, to encourage you as it has encouraged me to look beyond myself and into the eyes and hearts of others. If I can incorporate this level of caring into my everyday lifestyle, I need not worry about what kind of legacy I am leaving behind. The patient I met last week certainly wasn’t worried about it; may you and I find that same level of peace from our lives well lived too.
Blessings and thanks for reading,