By Rev. Paul Graves
Years ago, I attended a memorial service in Spokane that honored a special lady. Marie knew domestic violence from the inside earlier in her life. But for the previous 20 years, she was a key volunteer at Women’s Hearth, a drop-in center for female victims of domestic violence.
Like Marie, many women there moved from being victims to finding enough safety and support to discover they were both loved and able to love, trusted and able to trust. For Marie, part of her journey was expressed in becoming an accomplished sculptor of smaller pieces. I still have a gentle photo of her “Grandma God,” a grandma surrounded by children.
Her artwork and her genuine expressions of hospitality as the “greeter” at the Women’s Hearth for so many years were part of her legacy. I hope her values-legacy has continued in many ways by those who knew her.
Isn’t this what “legacy” is about? Legacy values are what we receive from people in our lives who pass along values, attitudes and actions that help make us who we are.
In the United Methodist ritual of death and resurrection, there is a wonderful “prayer of offering.” It begins by thanking God for the person being remembered because of who that person was to “make us who we are.” That’s legacy, folks. It’s important to remember people whose values and actions inspired us after they have died. But legacy is also very active when we embrace the values and actions of persons while they are still alive!
Our family has what I call our “Sourdough Legacy.” In the fall of 1973, as we settled into our new parish on Lake Chelan, a retired pastor and his wife visited us one day. They brought us a gift that we still use – a cup of sourdough starter. But this was no ordinary sourdough starter.
They brought it with them from Anchorage in the early 1950s after serving a church there. The starter had been given them by a real sourdough prospector, who had inherited the starter that went back to the Alaska Gold Rush in the late 1800s.
Our family began to use the starter to make waffles or pancakes every Sunday before I headed to the church. That tradition lasted until we moved to Sandpoint in 1988 when I had to be at the church early to ready myself for the first of two worship services.
But Sue and I have kept the sourdough starter freshened (and well used) for 48 years. We’ve also shared it with friends who are eager to try it out.
Some years ago, we gave starter to our son and his family. They’ve used it every Sunday for a number of years now. Our son quickly became both starter-mixer and waffle cook. Our then-8-year-old grandson insisted his daddy make the waffles since they are made with “boy love.”
Our daughter-in-law took the starter to members of her family in Mexico. Imagine that – our Alaskan sourdough starter is now an international sensation! Over Christmas week, Sue and I will enjoy our wonderful family. Yes, we will indulge in our Sourdough Legacy on Sunday morning, the day after Christmas. We’ll also continue to pass along values and hopes that sustain us today, tomorrow and into whatever future we have before us.
What important legacies will you share with your family and friends today? Don’t wait until your life is near its end before thinking about what values you have to pass along – and in what ways. Enjoy your legacy values, and let others enjoy them too! Thanksgiving traditions as legacy? Some legacies are very tasty.
The Rev. Paul Graves serves as the chair for the Council on Older Adult Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.