Sometimes, it’s not until someone is gone when we sit back, reflect, and recognize the impact they made on our lives. It’s those who carried a legacy of heartache, victory, mistakes, successes. Their stories spanning a lifetime, impacting in ways we couldn’t see before. Often, it’s those things forgotten, while other events as clear as if it happened just yesterday. A life making an impact to last generations.
It begs to ask the questions ~
Do our lives matter in the larger scheme of things?
Are we to leave a legacy? And, does it really matter?
So it was in the life of a neighbor we’ve known for nearly 30 years. At age 96, she passed quietly. A life seemingly insignificant on a grand scale, but grand in significance that mattered most to those who had the privilege to know her.
We knew and loved her as “Eileen.” She could often be seen walking or riding her Schwinn bicycle around the ‘hood. On special occasions, or just because she felt like it, she would bring over home baked cookies or our favorite treat, her coveted Butterhorn rolls. When our daughters began to experiment with baking, Eileen’s special recipe was one they most likely would request.
Her adult children remember their mom as loving and caring. Yet, she ruled the home with a strong hand when needed. Eileen’s calling was one of wife and mother…and, later, grandmother. This is where her joy ran deep. This is where she bloomed.
Eileen and her husband, Art, ever affectionate, loved each other as if newlyweds. When the grandkids grew old enough to be embarrassed by their grandparent’s outward affection, it was quite apparant Eileen and Art had something special going on. A legacy of love.
Widowed nearly 20 years ago, Eileen’s calling shifted. During his lingering days, Art was a resident at the Baptist Manor care facility in NE Portland. Eileen would visit her beloved every day. Just being by his side gave fulfillment in those fleeting days. There were rough nights for Art, and Eileen would be found laying next to him, bearing the unknowns with him in this new journey. An enduring love. Eileen described those days as Peace and Contentment.
The family worried a bit as to how their mother would manage once their dad passed away. Eileen was of the generation where the man-of-the-house handled all the finances and other manly responsibilities. Eileen didn’t even write a bank-check until she was in her 70’s. But, the perceived worries turned to admiration after their dad had gone. These adult children witnessed a strength not seen in their mother before. Eileen rose to the challenge and changes that came from her new life as a widow.
A determination of serving her community and church, volunteering at the Baptist Manor, and pouring into the lives of her children and grandchildren remained Eileen’s strength. That, and her deep faith and love of her Savior.
It was at Eileen’s memorial service, when a grandson shared personal insight into his grandmother’s inner character.
“Grandma Eileen,” he said from the pulpit, “was a woman of faith. As for me, I lived a life of abandonment. I was an honor student,” he goes on, tongue-in-cheek….”‘yes, your Honor; no, your Honor’, describes pretty much my younger self. But, it was the day Grandma came to my wedding, as proud as can be. She loved her family. My new wife and I were partying and drinking pretty well that day. Grandma, meanwhile was happy taking the usual pictures, smiling and eating cake. It was when she came through the reception line when everything shifted. I remember she didn’t say a word, she didn’t have to. It was the way she looked at me that day…a look that pierced my soul.”
A look that compelled this grandson for a changed life, and a transformed heart…later to become a pastor, impacting lives struggling similarly as his.
We have no idea how our lives are impacting others. We may not think our lives even matter. We’re insignificant, we tell ourselves.
But, as I remember my neighbor Eileen, I can testify that just her being my neighbor was very significant – on a grand scale.
Who has impacted your life? Share with us in the comments.