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Is It Important to Define Your Legacy? (and we aren’t talking money)

By April 21, 2016May 28th, 20194 Comments

It sits in the corner. A quiet reminder of her Grandmother. Her legacy. Sherry works her way around the room, dusting every piece of furniture, knickknack, doo-dah, and picture. Finally, she lovingly runs her dust cloth over Grandma’s sewing machine.

And pauses.

Opening the drawers, she finds bits of lace, pins, scissors, a few buttons, a piece of ribbon, a few zippers. Bits and pieces of her Grandma’s life. Not much really to tell the story of this woman who so impacted her life.

But Sherry remembers as the breeze flutters the curtains with a whiff of lilac.

She pictures her Grandma’s home with stunning clarity. By today’s standards, it wouldn’t be anything spectacular. Yet, there was welcome in Grandma’s house. And in that moment, Sherry is transported to another time.

Grandma is gone. A few tears trickle slowly down her cheek. She glances over toward the living room and pictures Grandma sitting on the couch. A slight glance to her left reveals the crochet project Grandma was working on. Unfinished now. With a bit of smile, Sherry picks up the beautiful lace, marveling at its beauty.

Sherry wanders up the stairs. Opening the linen closet, she discovers more treasures. Perfectly pressed bed linens all lovingly embroidered with delicate stitches and edged with lace. Grandma’s creations. She makes a note that she would like a set of these linens to remember Grandma. More memories flood her heart and mind. Learning how to embroider at Grandma’s knee, her patience at Sherry’s clumsy attempts to make the backside of the project almost as pretty as the front side. Somehow.

Through the bedrooms, Sherry wanders and gently touches the furniture, the delicate curtains. There in the back bedroom sits Grandma’s sewing machine with her last project in process. Scissors, thread, pins, a few buttons. Tools of her trade and imagination and skill. Now silent. Sherry makes another mental note as she turns to walk back down the stairs.

Grandma. How she missed her! How she missed hearing the lilt of her voice as she mixed two different languages. How she missed her Grandma singing or watching her make bread or seeing her hands fly over the thread or yarn as she crocheted.

Another whiff of lilac. “I think lilac will always remind me of Grandma,” Sherry laughs.

Grandma. A small woman in stature with a large personality.

Sherry closes the drawers of the sewing machine and finishes dusting.

Grandma’s legacy was more than this sewing machine. It was five deeply held characteristics.    

  • Family is important. Grandma loved her family fiercely until the day she died.
  • Good food is important. There was always something delicious cooking at Grandma’s house. It wasn’t haute cuisine, but it was always nourishing and tasty.
  • Loving God is important. Grandma loved Jesus and talked with Him constantly. Her faith was palpable.
  • Relationships are important. Grandma loved to visit with you and was interested in what was happening your life.
  • Simple things are important. Everything in her home had some sort of special beauty, often lovingly made by her own hands.

I’ve been thinking about the concept of legacy for quite awhile now. While there is a portion that relates to actual property or financial inheritance, I believe the greater portion relates to characteristics—those traits that define my family.

Study the family crests of European royalty. Each item on that crest stood for a cherished characteristic. Nothing ended up on the crest flippantly. Each symbol held significant meaning for the family. And, they proudly road under that crest into battle. It was the symbol of all they believed in and were willing to die for.


Webster’s Dictionary defines legacy as:

  1. Money or property left to someone by a will; bequest
  2. Anything handed down from, or as from, an ancestor

It’s Latin root, legatus, is the same root as the word “legate” which is defined as “an envoy or ambassador” or in Roman times, “the governor of a province, or his deputy.”

We tend to think of leaving a legacy as more of an inheritance (see definition 1) of property or money. But I contend that legacy, while including some sort of property or money, might be better defined in the context of characteristics: An ambassador for your family.

How would you answer these questions:

  1. Have I defined my legacy for my children? In other words, what two or three characteristics are the most important for my family? Remember we are talking about personality traits and beliefs here not property or money.
  2. Am I living out my legacy right now? If these two or three characteristics are the most important to you, your life should exemplify them. If not, then have you accurately defined what is really important to you? A tough question.
  3. How will I ingrain this legacy in my children? First you have to believe it yourself. It’s not possible to teach another something you don’t fully embrace.

The truth is we will all leave a legacy. The choice is how we define our legacy.

If you’re like me, you probably have some past mistakes that you don’t want to be part of your legacy.

Good news! Today is a new day. And there’s no better time to define and live your legacy than right now.

What legacy do you want to leave for your children? Leave a comment.

Live your legacy today,


  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.