Yesterday, I attended the funeral of my 103-year-old great-grandmother, who passed away over the weekend. And while I was teary-eyed and sniffly at it (which is for me the equivalent of outright crying), I didn't leave the service feeling wrung out or devastated or, honestly, even sorrowful.
I left the service feeling uplifted. Inspired. Because this woman whose blood runs partially through my veins was amazing. Not the sort of amazing that claims material success or fame or awards-won or anything like that--the kind that crafted a family full of people who love. Who love her, who love each other, who saw through her unflagging example how to love their neighbors.
As I listened to the stories people shared about Maxine Higson Seward, I sat in awe of how this one small woman could love so much. So completely. So without question. And I knew that that was the kind of legacy God wants us to leave in this world. The kind we spend a lifetime building. The kind that we don't pass along by creating something that lasts after us--books or statues or inscriptions on palace walls--but by teaching others to be the same way, who will in turn teach others, and so on.
And because I process emotions through writing, I of course then try to think of characters I've written that model the principles my Grandma Seward always lived out. And though there have been several small examples through the years and books, I realize that the series I'm working on right now, Shadows Over England, portray this selfless love in rather ironic ways.
Perhaps no one would expect me to dedicate books about thieves to my saintly grandmother, who gave, never stole. But I'm going to. Because what I love about this fictional family I've created is that, though they were misguided, they will sacrifice anything for each other. They will go out of their way to help each other, or others they deem "theirs." They may not always know the Right Way to act, but they know why to act--for those they love. In so many ways, this rag-tag collection of orphans I've decided to write about demonstrate what family should, in my opinion, be. What my family is.
I've thought here and there over the years about what kind of legacy I'm building. I have my books, of course. All the millions of words I've typed and put out there. But more important is what I'm teaching my children about life and family and God and giving. About their hearts and their service and their example. More important is teaching them that by loving others, you build something bigger than you are.
I'm not the same sort of person Grandma Seward was. My life certainly isn't the same type she lived. But if I and it are guided by the same principles, then I know it would make her--and my Lord and Savior--smile.
Whatever my profession, I can be His follower first.
Whatever else I am, I can be a dedicated mother.
Wherever I live, I can help my neighbors.
Wherever I go, I can point the Way to Him.
Whatever my feeling on a matter, I can demonstrate patience and love.
And whatever else I might do or not do in this world, whatever I might leave behind, I can say in all certainty, "I want to be like Grandma." That doesn't mean I'll be sitting on the porch shelling beans and making them stretch--it means whatever I'm doing, I'm doing it for those I love and the God who gave them to me.