“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127:3
“For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.” Romans 14:7
“How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” Psalms 112:1-2
Over the years I have had experiences with ‘spirits’ of who I believe are loved ones who have left this earthly home and moved on to be with God. For the most part these experiences have been positive, although at times unnerving and overwhelming, they have mostly been loving and tender. Two days ago, I had another experience that has left me thinking about the legacy we leave for our loved ones, and how they know what that legacy is. I am not talking about physical possessions; I am talking about true legacies. Do they understand what our legacy is?
Friday night my husband and I were watching a movie that was his typical thriller genre, and full of twists and turns. At the very end of the movie, a phrase showed on the screen.
“I leave you the best of myself.” (Denzel Washington, Equalizer 2)
As soon as the phrase appeared, I felt a slight chill and the slight whisper of my first husband’s voice, “I left you the best of myself, our son, Patrick.” It was a moment of realization and affirmation. In my grief and anger over Mike being taken from us so early, I truly never stopped to think about the legacy he left me. I know the legacy he left the field of nursing and medical transport teams, but at that moment I saw Patrick as something so much more than our son, he truly is the best part of Mike. That was the way Mike always thought, our son was the best part of both of us. Psalm 127:3 tells us that our children are a heritage from the Lord. He is the best part of both of us because he is a heritage from God. I thought on that most of the night, just so thankful for the moment I heard Mike’s voice but also for the realization of the legacies we leave – parts of ourselves. The next day, my husband and I were cleaning out the house we built and started our marriage in, and the house I had my first experience with Mike. As I was upstairs cleaning, there he was again. Just standing there with a smile on his face, happiness radiating from him because he was given that opportunity to remind me of his legacy – Patrick, the best part of him. He was gone as quickly as he appeared, but it was long enough for me to have a peace and understanding that I have not had in a long time.
Since that experience I have been thinking a lot about other loved ones that have left us, and the legacy they have left. I am amazed that I never thought about it in these terms before. Then I thought of the stories each loved one told and lived before they left us, and I am thankful to God for their legacy and for His love for us. Steve Saint said, “Your story is the greatest legacy that you will leave to your friends. It’s the longest-lasting legacy you will leave to your heirs.” Oh, the stories they have told us, the stories they lived. Maybe that is why I have had the visits all these years, they want to remind me of their stories. They want to make sure I do not forget their stories. They know my love for storytelling and how much I love to share stories with students and anyone who will listen. Shannon L. Alder said something similar, and this one I love. “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” Carve your names on their hearts, not on tombstones. Their legacy is the stories we remember, the stories we share to future generations, so they will always be remembered.
In each one of us is a legacy from our parents, grandparents, and those before them. In each one of us are parts of their stories, the best parts of them because they loved us and taught us about God, life, love, and they shared their stories.
I like to think that my parents left the best of them in myself and my sisters and brother. The best of them means a love for God, a love for family, compassion for others, and a sense of humor to carry us through life. Their legacy though started with their devotion to God, and what was in their hearts and how they lived their lives. As their children we were exposed to their lives and their stories every day, and the impact, their legacy is the best parts of them. How incredible is that! I visit their graves, and I place flowers there on a regular basis. It is bittersweet to see their names carved on their tombstones, but it is moving to understand that they carved their names, their stories on my heart way before we carved their names on the tombstones.
Then I think of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and the legacy they carved on my heart. The lessons taught and the stories told all a part of the legacy they left behind, the best parts of them were carved on my heart before we ever thought about carving their names on a tombstone.
However, what is even more incredible to me is the opportunity I have had to see and learn the legacy of Mr. Johnnie William Murrell, my husband’s father who passed before I had the chance to meet him. Yet, I know him. He has visited me, and he made sure I would be the one to find the legacy he left here in this house. His personal possessions were here for years, and no one found them, no one even knew they were there. It was his legacy for me, someone he knew would appreciate it and use them as an opportunity for him to carve on my heart the best parts of him that otherwise I would personally not have had the opportunity to know. His legacy is not worth millions of dollars or even thousands, but it is worth so much more than that. I know his stories; I have heard them (sometimes from him) and I have read them. His legacy, the best parts of Mr. Murrell are in the letters he wrote to his parents and sister while he served as a Marine in World War II. His legacy is in the pictures he took and saved to show pieces of what being a Marine was like. His legacy is in the newspapers and magazines he saved because it shows how great our country is, his love for his country, and his respect for history. His legacy is in the reverence and respect in which he addressed his parents, especially his mother when he wrote letters or sent home special items. His legacy is in what I saw in Mrs. Murrell’s eyes every time she spoke of ‘her Johnnie’. His legacy is in this house, in the love in which it was built. His legacy is in his son, my husband! Steve is the best part of Mr. Murrell. Even though I never met him, I see him in his son. I see him in the way Steve loves me and treats me, because it is the same way Mrs. Murrell described the love and care in which Mr. Murrell showed her. His legacy is in his son because Steve observed and learned so much from his father. His legacy is in the way Steve always talks about his father, with love and respect. His legacy is in Steve’s love and devotion to God because Mr. Murrell carved that in Steve’s heart. His legacy is in Steve’s love and devotion for his family, because Mr. Murrell set the example of a Godly husband and father. I never got a chance to meet Mr. Murrell, but I know him well because of the legacy he left, the legacy he carved on Steve’s heart, and the legacy I have learned since moving in his home.
Mrs. Valoree Murrell’s legacy is here too. I have had the opportunity to learn even more about her and her legacy since moving in her home. She visits too. Her legacy is here in the kitchen with me when I am cooking because I feel her presence, I see her smiling, and I hear her humming. She is always humming those gospel songs she loved so much, and she sings when she is happy and at peace with her love for her family. Her legacy, the best part of her is in her son, my husband, too. The best parts of her were her love and compassion for others, especially her family. Steve has that same love and compassion for others. He is the best parts of his parents! Her legacy is in the plants that continue to bloom and grow every spring. Her legacy is in the details of our home, their home. Her legacy was carved on my heart when she welcomed me and my son into her family, way before we carved her name on her tombstone. Her legacy is in our daughters and the way they love family, and the way they love each other just like she loved her sisters.
Mr. and Mrs. Murrell’s names are carved on a tombstone, but more importantly they are carved on our hearts too. Their legacy lives through their son, and even through our daughters and grandchildren. Their legacy is their love for God, their love for family, their love for our country, and their willingness to work hard in life.
The legacy continues with future generations. Mike’s legacy lives on through Brayden and Lydia, they never met their Grandpa Mike, but they will know his legacy and that the best part of him lives in their daddy, and in each of them. His compassion for others and his love of knowledge is in Brayden. His curiosity, his love for life and family, and his need for thrills and adventure lives on in Lydia. I see the legacy of my parents in my children and grandchildren. Each one has some small part of the best of each of them. Lydia has so much of my mother in her, yet she was only a month old when we said goodbye to my mother. The same is true of Mr. and Mrs. Murrell, their legacy lives on in each of their children and grandchildren. A small part, and I like to think some of the best part, of both is carved on my heart and will live as a legacy to the love they had for God and each other. I believe God’s plan was for Steve and I to live in their home, so I could find Mr. Murrell’s legacy and read his stories.
We each have a legacy to leave those we love. The legacy we leave is the way we live our lives. The legacy we leave is in each of them, a small part of each of us, hopefully the best parts of each of us is carved on their hearts while we are still here in this earthly home. Our legacy lives on in those we leave behind. What is your legacy? What stories have you told and shared so that others will always remember you?
Your legacy is in every life you have touched, every story you have lived. Live the legacy you want others to remember! Carve your legacy on their hearts!