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When I began writing this, I thought of all the “proper” ways to prepare a blog post on legacy. I kept fumbling; it all felt too formal for this occasion. Instead, I hope you’ll let me share with you in a simpler, albeit slightly unconventional, way.
During her tenure on Earth, Carol Baker was a brief but pivotal part of my life. As her husband Bob puts it, Carol recently “graduated to Heaven” (after a courageous, faith-filled fight with cancer).
This is what I would say to her now, if I could – which I hope blesses you, too (reader):
I knew it was getting serious by the photos your family posted on Facebook. You were still beautiful, but visibly depleted. Radiation couldn’t dull your radiance. Chemo had taken your hair, but couldn’t take your beauty.
I recall you and Bob saying the hallmark of that season was the joy of the Lord being your strength. Even after it was obvious that your own physical strength was decreasing, it was also evident that your faith & joy were unshakeable.
When the day finally came for you to pass away, I was sad to lose our earthly relationship – but rejoiced because of how confident I was about your relationship with Christ. I knew you were truly free from your pain, because of your faith in Him.
You weren’t the first loved one I’ve lost in recent years. You are, however, one of my deepest-felt losses. What’s so incredible to me is that in the days after your passing, I realized I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one to encounter God’s love through you.
More than 500 people reportedly attended your memorial. They had to add more chairs, and that was just in Denver. The outpouring of gratitude and admiration continued on Facebook. And I realized we had begun to reap what you had sown:
You were an accomplished person, as a wife, mom, elementary-school teacher, mentor and friend. But more than what you did was how you lived. Above all, you were passionate about Christ, committed to Bob, and dedicated to loving others well.
As a result, you had an impact on people – on this world – that will ripple for generations. The time, love and wisdom you poured into me alone, inspires me to be the type of person who won’t be known for what I did for my glory – but for God’s.
I look around, and even in the mirror sometimes, and see how consumed our culture is with making our names known. The type of legacy that lasts and matters most, though, is the type that makes His name known.
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Your death taught me that, but it was your life that taught me what that looks like:
Legacy can’t be quantified by fans, fame or Facebook likes; legacy is not popularity.
Legacy isn’t something you can airbrush onto photos, but etch onto hearts with love.
Legacy isn’t about buildings that bear our names, but memories that bear His image.
You, Carol, have reminded me that legacy isn’t about simply not being forgotten. Most of us dread the thought, of people forgetting that we existed in the first place. Legacy starts with us, but doesn’t end there.
Legacy is the interest accrued by our investments into other people. Investments they cash in on, for generations to come. In my own life, Carol, I will withdraw for years from the account of wisdom that you have invested into.
Most powerfully is knowing you invested because of love. Into my life and many others – including a friend who still hears the echo of your impact on her life, 25 years ago. That is the kind of legacy to which we should all aspire:
To be known for what we gave, not just by what we took.
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To be known for how we lived, not just by how we spoke.
To be known for what we stood for, instead of what we bowed to.
That’s the type of legacy you inspire me to sow, Carol – at the expense of self, but not at the cost of self-righteousness. You learned how to live sacrificially – but without sacrificing boundaries. That is a legacy all its own:
Boundaries are what protect the soil of life, in which seeds of legacy are cultivated. Legacy is not about who can burn themselves out most exhaustively. Nor is it about who can most deplete themselves and their families – in the name of Jesus.
Ultimately, Carol, even unto death you taught me invaluable lessons. I am a thread in your legacy, just as you are now woven into mine. By your example, you have once again pointed me back to God, the only one who can best help any of us answer:
What will your legacy be?
This post is dedicated to Carol Baker, with gratitude to Bob and the rest of the Baker Family, too.
Rebecca Halton is a freelance writer and communications consultant, as well as the author of Words from the Other Woman, and co-leader of TeamRedeemed.org. She hopes you’ll connect with her personally, through Facebook, Twitter, or RebeccaHalton.com.