how do you want to be remembered?

Bob Morgan memorialHow do I want to be remembered when I die? Not something I think about very often… or want to.

However, attending a memorial service this past weekend caused me to think about things that I am often too busy to consider.

My father-in-law died a few weeks ago (about one year after his beloved wife, Nancy) and we gathered for a very special time with family and friends to share stories, hugs, tears, and time together. Meals, music, and memories filled the days. We remembered Bob as family, friend, coach, and faithful husband.

Bob’s life did not begin easily. His father deserted the family when Bob was young, and Bob ran the streets unsupervised with his “river rats” pals. There are plenty of stories about their escapades and mischief… and probably some that still remain untold! Bob
credited the Marines and basketball for turning his life around, teaching him the discipline, values, and commitments that characterized his later life.

At Bob’s memorial, we looked at picture boards and video presentations and listened to some of his favorite songs and people share about his life. Over 80+ years, Bob left a lasting legacy.

PERSONALLY – Bob invested his life with passion into those things he loved and enjoyed. Bob served bravely and proudly in the Marines. After his tour of duty, Bob dedicated his life to his love of basketball. He played in college, and then coached for many years, winning the 1971 Wisconsin State Championship for high school boys’ basketball… and many years later, he came out of retirement to coach a win-less, small-town, girls’ team to their only winning season. Bob loved the “lake”: fishing, pontoon rides, and the spectacular seasonal views from his front porch. He also loved all kinds of music and enthusiastically sang and played with family and friends through the years. He was famous for his Louis Armstrong karaoke version of “What a Wonderful World”, and we sang it at his service.

What are you passionate about?
Are you investing your time, abilities, 
energy and resources there?

RELATIONSHIPS – Even without early strong role models, Bob left a legacy of strong family bonds and loyalty. Bob adored his wife Nancy; it was obvious to all who knew them. His family laughed together, cried together, disagreed, and forgave each other… always staying close and enjoying time together. Bob also developed long-term friends from all walks of life. He was friendly and witty, and had a special place in his heart for the underdog. The Morgan campfire always warmly welcomed family and loved-like-family friends.

How are your relationships? Are they committed, loving, loyal, deep?

FINANCIALLY – Bob was a high school teacher and coach… not highly paid professions. Yet, Bob and Nancy were excellent stewards of their resources. In life, they were thoughtful gift-givers and traveled frequently to visit family. They opened their home and hearts to many, some for short visits, others for long-term care. They wintered in South Padre, TX for many years, enjoying warm weather and dear friends. When they died, they left an inheritance to their children. They were generous in life and in death.

Are you a good steward of what you have earned/received?
Are you generous to others?

FAITH – Bob and Nancy both demonstrated a personal faith and encouraged it in others. They faithfully attended church through the years, although the particular denomination was not important. Personally, I am grateful for how they encouraged our missionary family and prayed for us, even when they knew that our faith choices meant our family would never live near to them. Both Bob and Nancy understood God’s gift of
forgiveness and were at peace when they died.

Where are you on your faith journey?
Would you be at peace with God if 
you were to die today?

Bob and Nancy have helped me reflect on my own “wonderful world” and the legacy I want to leave behind… How about you? How do you want to be remembered?

flashbacks and memories

She would have been on the porch waiting and watching anxiously for our arrival. She would have walked slowly over the gravel rocks to the parking area to bear hug each one as they exited from the car doors. With a sweet, gentle smile, she would have commented on how each child had grown, how good they looked, and expressed how happy she was that we were here… but, she wasn’t there this time.

photoThe house seems quiet without her, but her presence is everywhere: her handiwork on the walls, her pictures on the fridge, her jackets still hanging and occasionally borrowed for a walk down the lane.

Conversations frequently turn to her… “Must be weird for you to be here…”, “First time back since…”, “I miss her too…”. Eyes fill with tears.

I missed her especially in the kitchen, where she was often, brewing the morning coffee, making up a quick snack or a full meal, answering the phone, taking notes, finishing crossword puzzles, always with a warm welcome when we came upstairs.She probably would have baked a cake for her firstborn’s special visit… but there was no welcome cake this year.

I missed her at the campfire too. How she laughed at the antics of the dogs and the people. How she loved to listen to the music. She would smile so proudly and compliment each musician in turn. She would sing along with the favorites and listen carefully to new melodies. This year, Papa sat alone at the fire-pit.

Papa is so sad and lost without her. The love of his life is gone and life feels empty and lonely and long.

I understand. I miss her too. Her life was a legacy. I know she’s in a good place with no more illness or hurt, but that doesn’t lessen our pain here. It’s only been a year, but her absence will be felt forever. ♥

Have you lost someone special? Are there special places or times that remind you of them?

looking in the wrong place

I want to do something worthwhile, valuable, important. I want to leave a legacy. In an earlier post, I wrote about my discouragement and concern that I hadn’t left the culture change legacy that I wanted in the organization. Over time, the organization took on a different look, a different personality, and I felt like a failure…
Where was the legacy?

The other day, I was processing this struggle with my husband. The more we talked, the more I came to realize that I was looking for the legacy in the wrong place. I wanted an environment, procedures, and structures to display our influence after we were gone.

I think now that the organization simply provided the “front” for the work we wanted to do; it would not be my source of legacy. I believe I find my legacy in the people I worked for and worked with, in the changed lives – nurtured, grown, changed, empowered, hope-filled… in the environment we built to work from.

Perhaps the “temporary” place we created was never intended to last forever – maybe we built it as much for us as for others. It served an important purpose for a time. It provided a context for us to work out our calling… while we were there.

I am not really very concerned about turning organizations around. I do want to bring a positive influence, and I do hope to lay a path that makes it easier for others to follow. I think that I am more passionate about turning lives around. And that, thankfully, I did get to do from my leadership position.

Some of those changed lives will lead to generations of change. Many will use their influence to create and multiply environments where others can grow. Their changed lives mean changed families and changed businesses, and contribute to changed cities… and eventually a changed world! I feel more encouraged with my search… maybe my legacy is not so quickly and easily visible, but it is definitely a legacy that was worth the effort.

Where do you want to leave a legacy? Are you looking in the right place?

working against the tide

Do you ever feel like you are “swimming up-stream”? Have you sensed that the door you hold open has a strong tension-spring that will slam it shut as soon as you let go? Have you ever felt like your hard work and passions are like a sand castle that is completely washed away when the tide comes in?

I have been struggling a lot with those kind of feelings the last few weeks. In a past leadership position, I gave my best effort to bring about a culture change that I believed in strongly. Some of what we encouraged was team leadership, women valued and developed equally with the men, integrity in character and finances, and a willingness to honestly evaluate results.

Together with my husband, I tried to lead by example; brought in resources and training; honored those co-workers who demonstrated the values we cherished, and celebrated the environment and growth that resulted from our efforts. It was hard work, there was resistance and personal attack, and we paid a price physically, emotionally, and relationally.

We were also incredibly blessed with encouragement and support from partners, mentors, and the thrill of changed lives. At the time, I thought the dream of healthy relationships and a healthy organization was worth the pain.

Sadly, today looking back on that time, I question more… so much of what we “built” is gone. Many things are different; environment, people, results… I wonder, did my hard work really accomplish anything? Was the up-hill climb good for only short-term, superficial change?

I have learned a lot about working as a leader. Now I need to learn about letting go. I need to live with the tension between desire for a legacy… and contentment with having given my best when it was my turn.

Do you have any tips for me? What do you do when your hard work is washed away?