I believe family legacy is not found in a birthplace, a set of china or even a precious heirloom. Family legacy is grounded in the solidarity of group decision and the respect for individual choice. It is the ability for these forces to coexist which create the fabric of legacy.
All too recently, my three siblings and I had to bid farewell to our Aunt Jack. At nearly 101, she was truly a Matriarchal strength in the fabric. Aunt Jack was the final survivor of 13 born. Our Father was the youngest, and left this Earth at an early age. Without Aunt Jack and her Sisters, it is likely the four of us would not have gone to college. It was their collective decision to assure our future and our well being to the best of their ability. They did so without a question or doubt as to the prime directive. That is not to say, there weren’t debates along the way or even full fledged disagreements on the how, but the directive was always kept steady in view.
The years passed, and it became our turn. The U.S. for all of its good points sadly lacks options or even caring attitudes for the well being of the elderly. Without doubt or rift, the four of us agreed to place a lien on the family home to maintain care and life quality for the remaining two of the thirteen. For as long as possible, we staffed caregivers 24 by seven.
The decision as written here does not seem as earthshaking as it feels. This home has been a part of our family since 1932. It is not just our inheritance that we decided to let go, but our history and a piece of our heart. This brick, thick walled, Southern home, complete with back patio, Oak, Magnolia and a 200 foot garden, has served as a warm place of refuge across generations. Family and extended family have passed through this home on their journey, and some have died there. It is the place of Christmas celebration, Sunday dinners, and tailgating for football homecoming. My childhood is there. The back porch, with its Kerr jars, old church pew and antique Singer is the stuff of Norman Rockwell. Walk inside and every piece of furniture tells a story. The pie safe was a wedding present to my grandparents in the late 1800s. The kitchen table was carpentered
by my uncle. The lamp was brought back from Germany after WWII. by one of the 13.. And so the tales are woven through the holdings of the home. Though we live nearly five hours away, my boys have spent numerous days there discovering treasure in the basement and picking the cherry tomatoes. It warms my heart to know they will remember.
Our decision in favor of the lein was not easy, but our directive was clear. An era has completed with the passing of Aunt Jack, and we miss them all terribly. We will rent for a year or two, spotting the current market as encouragement not to sell. It will buy us some time to sort through history, but in the end we will probably have to let go. Miracles however do happen, and just like the generation before us, we must take one step at a time with an openness to change.
I believe what I tell my boys. Family legacy is not found in a house. It is found in the people of the family, woven by their choices and by the celebration of generations.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.