When I think of a legacy, I think of trees. That word “legacy” came to my mind a lot as I checked my father into assisted living last week.
With trees it is reasonable to conclude that the tree will outlive the planter. It is common for someone to visit their childhood home and discover the trees they planted in their youth are now majestic and dominate the landscape.
Trees provide more than the eye can see. We all know that birds and bugs live in them. We also get shade from them. Beyond what we can see, we also know that there are microscopic critters that live their lives in the roots below and in the limbs above, participating in the circle of life.
The majesty of a tree outlives the tree, itself. Even after a great tree’s death, life continues to originate from that tree. The leaves that have fallen become the dirt below the limbs, and in many instances, new trees succeed the older, stately trees, living their early years in the shadows of their majestic parent.
Memory of specific trees endure in our minds after they are gone. I have memories of apples trees that I used to climb and eat from, in real time. No washing off the germs/bugs, no de-worming…just pick and eat. That plot of land that the apples trees flourished on has long since been overrun, but the legacy of those trees will always be in my mind.
I find that that my parents are like trees, only we get to see them go through their lifespan, in real time, and we get to see the changing from majestic to frail and brittle.
It hurts to watch this evolution happen. The legacy of aging parents transcends generations. Human culture get passed through to the next generation in the same way that a majestic tree fades as its life comes to an end.
During the last few years, I have watched both my father and my wife’s father fade. Both need assistance to address everyday life functions that they used to take for granted. It is overwhelmingly sad that they aren’t going to achieve anything else in their lifetimes. The days of accolades and discovery are events of their past, not the future.
I see their legacy as they share and relive their lives in the stories they tell. Yet, there was a time when each of them was a young(er) men, full of vigor, trying to apply 1 Corinthians 9:24 to their lives.
In that part of Corinthians, Paul tells us in reference to how to live our lives that we should “Run in such a way as to get the prize…They do it to get a crown that will not last….”
My fathers’ ran their races and won crowns from years as captains of industry. Those crowns are now gone. They did not last, as predicted.
This will be me, one day. I will not earn trophies, set new personal records or beat the generation below me. Yes, this, too, shall be me, one day. It shall come to pass that I will be feeble and in denial that I offer nothing to society other than my story. Perhaps I will continue writing in my later years and stories like this will be part of my legacy.
Hopefully, as long as it is my body to control, I will be running in the woods and riding a bicycle in the mountains till the day I die or can’t, whichever comes first. But, I might not be that fortunate. I, too, may find myself consuming the time of people I love with stories of medicine and doctor visits as they politely listen. It is possible that my own cognitive decline will start to impact others, taking their time and resources to address. Again, they will be polite as they try to help. More likely than not, I will be like them and falsely wait, thinking that the next doctor’s visit will be “the one visit” in which all of my problems are explained and addressed, as a plan gets created to get me back to normal.
My fathers bring me back to thinking about trees. I would like to be a like a tree that has a few seeds fall and become saplings that like to listen to my stories of what life was like “back in the day.”
Living the abundant life is inseparable from using your gifts. When you can’t “use” your gift, you pass on stories about your gifts to those willing to listen. It is too bad there are not a lot of listeners to the gifts that remain with our legacy population like my fathers. I find that I really like listening to their legacy stories. As I meet the others in his assisted living facility, I find that I like their stories, too.
Well, some of them…
What will your story be?
Who will listen? Will they be sitting next to you or at the end of a communication tool like VR?
Think about it in the view of Assisted Living.