Last week my wife's grandfather passed away at the age of 83. We went to Ohio for the funeral and to be with family. As is typical for such things, the service included stories, memories, and what kind of an impact he had on people. He had lived in the same small country town for the majority of his life and had many locals come to pay their respects. At one point the line stretched out of the church and into the parking lot with people waiting almost an hour to get a chance to say goodbye to him and give their condolences to the family.
As I was sitting in the service and listening to the words I started thinking about the legacy he was leaving. People talked about what a man of God he was and how he loved to talk to people about his faith in Christ. This was very impactful because he had been an alcoholic and shunned churches until he found a relationship with God. His son-in-law (my father-in-law) talked about being part of his family for over 40 years. His son told stories about coon hunting and what a good father he was. I believe that once it was mentioned that he had been a carpenter and worked at a lumber yard, but otherwise everything that was said about him related to his family, his faith, and his relations with the people around him.
It often happens at times like this that you start becoming very introspective, which I certainly did. I started thinking about my own father (who is 84) and what I will say about him at his funeral. Like with my wife's grandfather I can think of numerous stories about the fun things we did, how much he loved my mother, the hard but good lessons he taught me, and what a great family he made. Everything I will say about him will revolve around what a good father and husband he was, and I'm sure neighbors and friends will share their own stories about how good he was to them. I honestly can't think of anyone bringing up how good he was at his job. You see, he started off as a car mechanic and worked his way up to becoming a regional sales manager for Volvo, managing sales at dealerships in a multi-state region. Sure, I've heard plenty of stories involving his job and have been on business trips with him. But how good he was at his job isn't something that anyone will remember. Even his co-workers would tell personal stories of how they related to him.
Trickle all of that down to me. After thinking about my father I started wondering what kind of legacy I will leave. What will people say about me? What do I want them to say? For what kinds of things will they remember me? What stories will they tell? I can promise you that little to none of that will reflect on me as a veterinarian. And I'm fine with that! In fact, I could care less about being remembered as a good doctor. Sure, I have plenty of clients who think I'm great and will readily tell people about how I saved their pet's life. But once I leave the clinic those stories aren't that important. I see most of my clients a couple of times per year, and as much as they may like me I'm not really having a drastic impact on their lives. However they may think of me I know they could find another doctor just as skilled.
So how do I want to be remembered? First, as a man who was truly in love with his wife for his entire life. Second, as a father who loved his kids and gave them everything they needed (not wanted), especially lessons about life. I want to be thought of as a good friend, someone who truly cares about those I would let into my small inner circle. And I want to be remembered as a strong man of God, someone who follows Christ and the Bible, and in whom you can see that daily. I wouldn't mind being remembered for how I shared God with people rather than how well I healed pets. I want people to think of me fondly for the positive impact I made on them personally, especially my family and my God.
I still have a ways to go before that legacy is set, especially with regards to my faith. I madly love my wife and I am a good father most of the time, but I can do better. I fail God in so many ways and know that I can do better...should do better. Hopefully I still have time to correct all of this. I certainly pray that I do.
It's funny how much emphasis we place on our careers. We push ourselves and are pushed by others to do more, get better accolades, rise in the ranks, and otherwise go higher and farther with our chosen profession. We spend so much of our time and effort on making an impact in our job. Yet at the end of our life few people are going to remember how well we climbed the corporate ladder or how much money we made. When we take our last breath we will be remembered for how we treated people and how we made them feel personally.
Maybe we're putting the emphasis in the wrong part of our lives.
Food for thought, folks.