Legacies and Vacancies
I’ve been thinking a lot about legacies, probably because last Friday marked the seventeenth year since my dad’s passing. He still means so much to me; I’m still learning from him.
Like all father-and-son relationships, ours was spotted with a few imperfections—but not too many and none that ever drove us apart. My memories of him are 99% positive. Thomas Grissom was a good man.
Some people try to establish their own legacies by putting their names on buildings, scholarship funds, and city parks. There’s nothing wrong with any of those, but in my opinion the truest form of legacy is an extension of the life the person lived, not an addendum to it. It’s a continuation of a reputation earned, not a salvage operation.
So, when I think about Dad’s legacy, it‘s all about how he lived in his small corner of the universe. In his case, it’s pretty basic stuff, really: work hard, live within your means, try fixing it before replacing it, be honest, be helpful, don’t retaliate, and make time for fishing and watching baseball. Quietly strong. Humbly influential.
I loved that man.
I read a story about a store clerk who was known for being lazy. Whenever there was hard work to be done, he’d conveniently disappear. When a regular customer noticed that the clerk wasn’t there one day, he asked the store owner:
“Where’s Eddie? Is he sick?”
“Nope, he ain’t workin’ here no more.”
“Do you have anyone in mind for the vacancy?”
“Nope. Eddie didn’t leave any vacancy.”
One way that grief serves us well is by putting us in touch with our own mortality. The death of a loved one reminds us that our days will come to an end too, that our lives will become legacies . . . and will hopefully leave vacancies.
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
© 2022 by Tim Grissom. All rights reserved.