“Taste every one of time’s moments. Swallow. Taste the next. Drink the water. Drink the wine. It is no good left in the glass. Sweat and struggle. Run. Fight. Receive. Give. Be grateful even for death, for the ticking clock counting down on you. Seventy years. Eighty if you are strong. Less is you’re like the Messiah. Look to Him and receive more grace. Stagger on. You can do it.” — N.D. Wilson in Death by Living
His was the first voice who spoke the three words that brought hope to my adolescent heart: “I love you.” The rich baritone sound rang loud across the lines hundreds of miles from his home in Florida and into my ears. No one in my family had spoken those words to me before. His was the first.
There are people in our lives who make a lasting impact. My grandfather is one of those people.
One of his greatest legacies to me is how to seize life and live it to the fullest. Never a complainer, he took whatever God gave him in life and accepted it. A near deadly motor cycle accident brought him to faith, a faith that has been steady all my life.
A retired police officer from our nation’s capital, he has never stopped working and learning. He loved to sing so he joined a gospel barber shop quartet and the church choir. He taught himself to work with wood, using a lathe to make bowls and works of art. He wanted to learn the game of pool so he got a pool table and practiced with other retired men in his community.
I’ve always seen him as strong, confident, and secure. Fearless. As a child I would ask him about the tattoos covering his arms, tanned from hours spent fishing in the sun. He’d laugh and say it was something he did when he was young and bored during the War. And though he was strong, he was weakened by the unexpected death of my grandmother when I was fifteen. He learned then that life was short and not to be taken for granted. After that, he never ended a conversation or visit without telling us he loved us.
I called him for his eighty-eighth birthday last week. He laughed with joy at the boy’s singing to him over the phone. We talked about his plans to celebrate. Then he announced his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.
“Does that mean you’ll have to stop your wood working?” I asked.
“I’m doing it right now while we’re on the phone,” laughing even as he said it.
During our last visit, he showed the boys how to whittle wood. As I watched his shaking hands strip pieces from a block of Cyprus wood, I wondered, what kind of legacy will I leave for my children and grandchildren? Will they remember me for living life to the fullest? Will they see me as wasting the time I have? Will they remember me as living faithfully for God or complaining about life’s trials and challenges?
Getting older is sobering. When we are young, it always seems far off into the future. Then one day you are there and it’s too late to go back. I want to spend all the time God has given me to the fullest. I want to enjoy the blessings He’s given me and not take any of it for granted. I want to learn from the lessons He gives and live each day in humble reliance upon His sustaining grace.
I want my grandfather’s legacy to me to be one that I pass on to my own children and grandchildren.
How about you? How will you live out your years and what will your legacy be?
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