Over the last decade an annual Service of Remembrance has been established in our church. During the evening service on the last Sunday of the year the members of our congregation who passed away are honored by having their names read, their pictures shown on the screen and a candle lit by one of their family members. Although there’s nothing magical about the candle, it is a symbolic tribute to the way these people have shined God’s light and love into our lives and community. This year seven of our members were recognized, all of them passing away in their 80s and 90s. After they’ve been acknowledged, anyone who wants to remember a loved one who passed away that year or in years past is invited to say the person’s name and to light a candle in their memory. It’s a sobering service that always leaves me pondering my own life and legacy. Legacy: something that is handed down or remains from a previous generation or time. I used to only associate legacy with the aged. In my mind it was the role of the grandparents and great-grandparents to pass on precious things and, more importantly, faith and values from one generation to the next. Over the past few months two things put a significant spin on my thinking legacy was reserved for the senior saints. Oldest daughter, Elizabeth, and her hubby, Mark, are expecting their first child in May, Lord willing. Suddenly being a grandparent doesn’t seem quite so old or aged for expectant Grandpa Mike and me. I listened to a moving interview where a philanthropist said that the time to write your eulogy or to pen your legacy is today. Don’t wait around until your wall is full of pictures of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Think about what you want people to pay tribute to at your death and live it out today. Sound melancholic at the beginning of a new year? Truth be told, it’s more timely than morbid. To finish well, we must run well — no matter what mile marker we’re at in life’s race. The interviewed self-made millionaire plans on dying penniless — giving away all of his money to those in need. He was quick to clarify for average prairie folks like me that being a philanthropist isn’t limited to gifting money. We can and should also be philanthropists of our time and talents. I think of dear ladies in our community who are philanthropists of their talents. My mom sews quilts that have warmed the hearts and beds of her children, grandchildren and countless babies in our community and beyond. A quiet and big-hearted neighbor hand-braids beautiful rugs from coats, using castaway nylons for thread. She’s blessed numerous brides-to-be with these treasured gifts and her prayers. I still get a lump in my throat when I remember Harry Post, one of the most tenderhearted farmers our community has ever known. His philanthropy of time will always burn brightly in my memory. He always took time to encourage and to listen. The number of lives he touched through his kind words is incalculable. The famous baseball player Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” No matter what our age, we cannot assume that we will finish well — leaving a legacy that blesses others and causes them to smile. In the book “Stand — A Call for the Endurance of the Saints,” Randy Alcorn writes, “Don’t just let your life happen, choose what to do with it, or in the end you’ll wonder where it went. You must consciously choose not to squander your life or let it idle away, but to invest it in what matters.” Invest it in what matters. No need to look any further than scam artist Bernie Madoff to know that the most important investment we can make in this new year is not in portfolios, but in people. Invest in people who are different than you. One of the most inspiring invest-in-people stories that I’ve read is the true account of Ron Hall and Denver Moore in the book, “Same Kind of Different As Me — A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman who Bound Them Together.” Moore, the recent slave, writes, “I found out everybody’s different — the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us.” Invest fully into the lives of your children and grandchildren — focusing more on the inheritance of family and faith than who gets Grandma’s silver tea set. Be a generous provider not only of food on the table and a roof over your family, but of love, time and a listening ear. Finish well by beginning well and persevering always. And as 80-plus-year-old author and speaker Helen Roseveare says, “Don’t stop running until you hit the tape.”
Lenae Bulthuis is a wife, mom and friend who muses from her back porch on a Minnesota grain and livestock farm.