Leaving a Legacy

It’s a cool thought, isn’t it? Leaving behind a legacy that impacts future generations. I’ve always believed that a legacy needs to be something big and profound that the whole world knows about — that couldn’t be farther from the truth!

In fact, a legacy can be simple.

My grandparents are living proof. On April 15, 2020, Harold and LaVerne Richardson celebrated their 70th, yes 70th, wedding anniversary. It is so rare for a couple to reach their platinum anniversary that there are no statistics on how many do; I dare say it is less than 1%. It is absolutely mind-blowing to think that two people not only lived long enough to be married for seven decades but actually still love each other.

Today they have two sons, both with marriages that have lasted 40 years, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren — and one just turned 17! And they have a relationship, a real relationship, with all 15 members of our family tree. To me, that is what a legacy truly is. It isn’t about fame, fortune, and having the world proclaim your name.

Legacy is the imprint you leave on people’s lives.

And oh, what an imprint my grand folks have made! For the first 20 years of my life, it was the ten of us (grand folks, mom, dad, my sister and me, aunt, uncle, and two cousins) and we did so much together. Taco Saturdays, Star Wars marathons, holidays, and the crazy week during the summers when Grandma and Grandpa would take the four grandkids to Disneyland, Seaworld, and the Circus! How they survived I will never know. Family time was cherished — always was and always will be.

Now in my 40s, I have an enduring friendship with my Grandma and Grandpa. We go on adventures together, play golf (well, I ride in the cart), watch TV, play games, but most importantly we talk about real day-to-day, often messy, stuff. They are invested in my life, and in turn, pour wisdom and a reminder of God’s deep love over me. They have, and will forevermore, leave an indelible mark on my heart.

So, what’s the secret to 70 years of wedded bliss?

It is simple, really. They kept Christ at the center of their relationship and at the center of their individual lives. They have been steadfast in their faith and have instilled their love for God into each of us. They are a living legacy of what it means to be Jesus’ followers. They are generous, kind, loyal, honest, and just downright fun. In fact, as I was growing up, I watched them became surrogate grandparents to anyone who needed that kind of love and support in their life.

But even in walking with Jesus, their life hasn’t been perfect. They have sustained illness, loss, and tragedy along the way. They barely escaped the deadly Santa Rosa fires in 2017. They were left with only the clothes on their back and the car they fled in. Yet, my grandfather’s response to the loss of everything was, “I lost a house, not my home.” He made it clear that family — the 15 of us — were his home. Throughout every struggle and obstacle, my grandparents have turned to God and faced each day with Him.

My grandparents never set out to leave a legacy—they just lived.

I am sure if you asked either one of them on their wedding day at 17 and 19 years old if they planned to be married 70 years, they would have said no. And, I am sure the idea of leaving a legacy of establishing a God-fearing family was far from their minds. My point is, they just lived. One day at a time, one event at a time, one prayer at a time. And God has profoundly blessed their faithfulness to follow Him, and in turn, their entire family.

I want to be like my grandparents when I grow up!

Some of their footsteps I won’t be able to follow in, such as raising children and having grandchildren. But everything else I can soak up and be an example to anyone I come in contact with. I am not seeking to leave a legacy as the world defines it, but I am seeking to love, care for, encourage, and support others in the ways those same gifts have been given to me.

May I always give great big, warm bear hugs like my Grandpa. May I tell sweet jokes and crack my self up like my Grandma. May I read God’s Word and let the truth sink in so I can share the story of His love for mankind just as Harold and LaVerne have done.

My mom and I, with the help of the whole family, put together a photo book highlighting their 70 years.

It only has 325 photos (selected from 700+), but I know each photo, each memory will be priceless to them. The fires destroyed all their photos and memorabilia, so our hope is the book will restore some of the loss. But more than anything, the book represents love — a love they have given that can never be replaced, never be lost, and never be forgotten.

Our family planned a gathering in April to celebrate the wonderful life they have lived, created, and shared with all of us. Unfortunately, Covid-19 stole our thunder and an in-person celebration was postponed. We were waiting the pandemic out to see if, after a couple of months, a party would be possible, but no such luck. So, this past weekend we did the next best thing — a video call with everyone where my parents and my aunt and uncle were able to present the anniversary gift. It was a sweet moment, and even sweeter was the next morning when they called to express their gratitude. Just another example of their legacy.

I love you with all my heart, Grandma and Grandpa.

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