Do You Have the Courage to Leave a Legacy?

Eulogy given at my father’s funeral, March 1, 2012. I usually repost it every day on his birthday, August 9. This year, a Facebook post sent to me by my wife and daughter reminded me of one of my dad’s favorite things to do for kids – so here it is again in his memory.

During the past few days I have been reminded in powerful ways that even though you may go away from a place, it’s always home.

Last night, over 750 guests came by to visit with my family. We saw friends of four years – and of four decades. Multiple generations of “customers” of my dad came by to pay their respects. From four to ninety-four, our family and friends came…

On behalf of my family, I want to thank all of you for your kind words, gestures, and acts of love.  We are humbled by your actions, and thank you for honoring the memory of my father, Doc Adams.

My memories of my father span the 54 years of my life – and each memory has a special significance. A father means one thing to a 3-year-old, another to a 13-year-old, and another to a 33-year-old. They are all special.

But today I remember my father in terms of being a grandfather. I am reminded of times with my grandfather and also how my dad played with his grandchildren.

My paternal grandfather died when I was an infant; my maternal grandfather lived in Missouri. When he moved into the small apartment next to my house during my early teenage years, I remember fishing and hunting with “Pappy.” I think that established in me what grandfathers did.

Later on, after marriage and the start of my own family, since my father was still working during my kids’ early years, trips to Grandpa’s house always included driving the mower; pumping gas at the gas station; feeding the birds; and reading books. Later when he retired and the kids were older those kinds of things expanded, but he was always reflecting a spirit of giving to others.

So here I am in 2012, finding myself a grandfather – actually, a GrandBob – twice (now, 4 times!) and it seems things are the same. The kids probably get more sugar, less sleep, and more attention than they should – but I don’t remember it permanently damaging me or my kids, so who am I to break with tradition?

The point of all this long discourse: A lot has changed in the decades of grandparenting I’ve been a part of: first as a recipient, then as an observer, and now as a practitioner. But one thing remains the same. 

Grandparents love their grandchildren, and through that love, cherish their children in a different way, as parents, and bearers of a legacy to a new generation.

That’s a legacy I cherish.

At my father’s celebration service, we showed a video clip that included him saying “I never made much money, but I made a lot of friends, and that’s what’s important.”

It reminded me of comments made by my dad when he would buy something for himself – which wasn’t very often: “I hope you don’t mind me spending your inheritance.”

When you put those two comments together, I think you have a perfect expression of what my father meant to our family – and to his church, community, and friends.

A huge difference exists between a legacy and an inheritance. Anyone can leave an inheritance. An inheritance is something you leave to your family or loved ones. A legacy is something you leave in your family and loved ones. While it hard work and success may lead to an inheritance, it takes courage through a lifetime to leave a legacy.

 Inheritance

  • Something tangible you give to others
  • Temporarily brings them happiness
  • Eventually fades as it is spent
  • Your activity may or not may pay off

Legacy

  • Something tangible you place in others
  • Permanently transforms them
  • Lives on long after you die
  • Your activity becomes achievement

What would you rather leave: an inheritance or a legacy?

I am reminded me of a quote attributed to Winston Churchill which I think reflects my father’s spirit and actions, and is backed up by the presence of hundreds at his celebration service today:

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.

Giving is very much the legacy of my father, and what I want to leave with you today.

DumDum(Family and friends leaving the celebration service were given a Dum Dum sucker.)

Your smiles in the audience tell me most of you know what this means; for those of you that don’t, it’s very simple.

Kids of all ages who came by my father’s gas station received a Dum Dum sucker from my father. It was just a simple act, but one that reverberates in my spirit to this day.

Serve people with a smile, and then give them a little extra.

Enjoy the Dum Dum or give it away.

Either is okay: keep it for comfort or a memory of Doc, or give it to someone in memory of Doc.

Give away a smile today.

That’s the legacy of Doc Adams that we all can pass on.

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