What Legacy Will We Leave Behind?
How do we want to be remembered? Think about that? When you die, what do you want people to say about you in your eulogy? What will they say was most important to you? About you? Will your legacy be something about your family? Your professional work? Your hobbies? Your friendships? Your generosity?
Will you be known for your self-centeredness? Or some mistake or scandal in your lives? Or will you be remembered for the good you did for others, and how you changed the world around us for the better? Willy our legacy be about how you touched the lives of people, or how you lived a comfortable life focused on yourself and your own people? What is it that we want others to remember about us when we are gone?
I’m thinking about what legacy we will leave behind this Memorial Day Weekend. On the last Monday of May every year, our country turns its attention to those who have died, veterans, loved ones, and others. I’ve been going to the cemetery over the past three days and will spend several hours there tomorrow morning offering memorial prayers while people stand before the tombstones of their beloved, praying for their souls and also reflecting upon the legacy their loved ones left behind. What was their legacy, and what will ours be?
Think about it! One day on a future Memorial Day, as well as in the Church on a future Saturday of the Souls and the many other days we have in our church calendar when we remember our departed loved ones, one day after we pass on from this life, people will turn their attention to us and reflect on our life – and what will they remember? What is the legacy that we are trying to leave behind?
At the cemetery, I have seen tombstones with golf clubs, with tennis rackets, with New England Patriots emblems and with other hobbies or passions that dominated the lives of people. Think about that, though. Do we really want to be remembered in eternity for some hobby that occupied so much of our lives, or for the sports team we rooted for, or for some other temporal pursuit?!?
If we are concerned about what legacy we will leave behind, to be honest with ourselves, we should reflect on what we are passionate about here and now in our lives? Is our life all about making money and living a comfortable, self-centered life? Is our life focused too much on FOX News or some politician or political party that dominates all our time? Is the legacy we are creating based on hatred or prejudice or fear towards certain people? What consumes our lives here and now, because whatever we are passionate about now will be what forms the legacy we leave behind after we are gone.
Jesus Christ clearly warned all of us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” How many of us can honestly say that the greatest passion and pursuit of our lives is seeking first God’s heavenly kingdom? Seeking first an intimate, loving relationship with our Creator? Honestly, isn’t this the most beautiful legacy to strive for and cultivate each and every day?!?
Saint Paul has always been one of my favorite saints, so much so that we named our first child after him. I love him for his life story and conversion, for the writings he left to instruct and inspire future generations of Christians, and for his passion and love for Jesus Christ. Do you know what Saint Paul’s final words were, written to his disciple Timothy shortly before he was martyred? Well, he wrote, “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day.” (2 Tim 4:7-8)
Paul was proud to highlight that the legacy he thought he was leaving behind was a life of faith. He stayed faithful in the long and arduous race of faith. He faced many extreme challenges. He struggled with temptations. He didn’t live an easy or comfortable life. He could have complained about much that he endured. Yet, he completed the race of life faithfully until the end!
He did not focus on all the churches that he started; on the theological works he wrote; on his earthly “accomplishments.” He was happy to note that he had stayed faithful in following God and serving Him until the end of his life!
That’s probably the greatest legacy to leave behind. So what is the legacy that each of us hope to leave behind?
Today we remember one of the beautiful saints of the Bible, the Samaritan woman who became known as Saint Fotini. She offers us a great example of how one can be remembered. If anyone would look at her life up to a certain point, they would have remembered simply a broken, sinful woman. A scandalous woman who was married five times. A woman who would have lived and died an insignificant life. Yet, she met the Savior of the world, and she was open to the salvation that He offered. She was broken but Christ offered her healing. Her life was empty and thirsty, and Jesus offered her living water. She was a scandalous woman married five times, but our Lord saw her inner beauty, and called forth her beauty to blossom for the rest of her life.
Instead of being a forgotten woman of history, she became known as St. Fotini, the Enlightened one who dedicated her life to following Jesus Christ and proclaiming His good news. She even stayed faithful to her path even to the point of martyrdom. So instead of some forgotten, insignificant legacy, she left behind the legacy of a transformed, transfigured person, a new creation in Jesus Christ. And to this day, she is remembered throughout the world two times in the church calendar. In fact, one of the most beautiful churches we recently visited in the Holy Land was in Nablus, Samaria in the West Bank, a Church dedicated to Saint Fotini!
A legacy that is forgotten, or that inspires others for generations to come!
Let’s turn our attention back to ourselves, and the legacy that we are creating. How will we be remembered? What are we doing now to create a meaningful legacy that will endure throughout history and into eternity?
Ultimately, there is only one legacy that will last into eternity and that is a legacy based on love, divine love – love for God and love for our neighbor; love for one another and love even for our enemies and especially for those in need all around us. A legacy of love is never inward turned and egocentric, a love only for those who love us, for our family and friends. Instead a legacy of love that lasts is a love for God which touches and reaches out to every person we encounter.
On this Memorial Day weekend, let’s take a moment to soberly and seriously reflect on our legacy, the legacy that we are creating now and which we will leave behind when others remember us long after our death.
IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?
Our Orthodox Faith