words by: Ferree Hardy
Each loss we suffer leaves us with a legacy. Have you ever thought about that? So often, people focus only on the loss, but on the flip side of that loss is a legacy. Even a child or stillborn baby leaves a legacy. I might write about the loss of a child in the coming months, but for now, my thoughts come from the later years of life’s spectrum.
Several months ago, it seemed I’d joined a morbid “Funeral-of-the-Month Club.” What really happened, however, was that I entered a season where I had several elderly loved ones. Having lived 80-90 years or more, they seemed to be lining up like elegant jets on a runway, getting ready for a take-off to heaven.
The first was my father-in-law, whose passing took us by surprise. The loss is still heavy, especially for my mother-in-law. They were that cute elderly couple who did everything together; she misses him deeply, every moment. But she has his legacy. Her years with him developed her faith, strength, and the traditions she cherishes. His final days brought great mercy from God and poignant moments of grace—like when they had a chance to say, “I love you” to each other—not knowing it would be the last ambulance ride. My father-in-law spent that night in a hospital eighty miles away and woke up in heaven the next morning.
Three weeks later, my first husband’s mother died. Again, unexpected. Why is it that we can know death is inevitable, but it is always a shock? Even though there were a few days for the family to hear what was coming, it was still unthinkable. We never quite know how we will go on without our mother, do we?
Her funeral was filled with memories of her sweet and godly days. I learned she’d been the first person in her family to commit her life to Christ. Her influence speaks for itself with the fact that the majority of them followed. Isn’t that a wonderful legacy? Yet, God’s grace allowed for even more. Her final days were preceded by a stroke that paralyzed her speech. This seemed tragic but became a blessing in disguise; it released her loving personality, which had begun to be bound by dementia. When her husband of 71 years, their adult children with spouses, and many grandchildren hurried in to see her over the next few days, they saw her eyes light up with recognition. Her love, generosity, and kindness once again shone through. God gave them their mom back, and then she, too, woke up in heaven.
Eight weeks after this, I received one of those unbelievable messages. I’m sure you’ve had some too, and my heart goes out to you. My mother’s youngest sister, an auntie I was very close to while growing up, had been admitted to the hospital the night before. Less than 24 hours later, her five children and their families were called in to tell her goodbye.
How could this be happening? She was so lively and energetic! She’d just healed from a broken leg, and her old farmhouse had just been remodeled. Memories flooded me: there were the flower girl dresses she’d sewn for my cousin and me to wear in her wedding; then she’d made us nurse’s hats and capes so we could play and pretend to be just like her. We’d planned fun parties and showers together, along with 4-H projects, sharing recipes, and swatting sneaky boys away from her homemade dumplings before Thanksgiving dinners. Most recently were some meaningful phone conversations when my dear uncle came down with Parkinson’s disease. At first, she was his caretaker, and then she was his widow.
But most of all, I will remember my auntie’s legacy. She had married into a family with a farm that her husband’s grandparents started in the 1800s. Throughout the years, she embraced their history, togetherness, and spot on this earth as much as she did her own. As my cousins and I would play tag under the maple trees at twilight or squeeze as many wiggling kittens as possible into our arms, we knew we were all “family.” We knew there was a deeper meaning too.
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Ferree Hardy has helped thousands of widows through her book, “Postcards from the Widows’ Path,” small groups, speaking, and personal coaching, but touching one life at a time is what matters most to her. She holds a BA from Moody Bible Institute, and was a pastor’s wife in Ohio for over twenty years before her first husband died. She’s happily remarried now, and her readers know that moving seems to have become a hobby for her. But she also enjoys backyard chickens, aims to read fifty books a year, and loves to bake. Learn more by visiting her blog.