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I do not want to be remembered.

I do not need a legacy of stone, statue of honor, grave marker, or memorial plaque.

I think I want to be missed.

Should I care what I do today toward a view of what may be thought of me after I die? Should I be building something that will stand after my bones have been reduced to dust, scattered across the Wisconsin countryside?

What’s my real job during this short duration of breaths on earth?

My cousin is a strong, Christian fundamentalist. During a recent visit, she mentioned she would not be attending her daughter’s wedding because her daughter and partner were gay.

I thought for a moment and asked, “Would you go if her partner’s name was Mike?” inferring a heterosexual relationship.

“Yes I would” she proclaimed with all the conviction born of an unapologetic, literal, and very strict Biblical upbringing. “God does not approve of the gay lifestyle. He loves the sinner but not the sin. The Bible says gays will not inherit heaven.”

I asked, “Who created heaven? Who determines who goes to heaven or hell?”

“Why, God, of course” came her predictable reply.

“Alright, if He is the one who determines these things, why is it our job to duplicate his efforts? Why are we doing God’s job rather than our own?”

She paused, perplexed by this bend from her orthodox logic.

“What if we had a different job,” I pressed forward, sensing a moment of doubt in her eyes.

“What if our job was to love our kids unconditionally? Love them for who they are, for the value they bring to this world and not judge them for their choices on how they earn a living or who they share their bed with. What if our kids only knew one thing from us – our unconditional love and value for them?

What affect do you think that would have on their lives. On our lives?”

My son was about ten when he came to his grandparents for Christmas. It was a complete surprise when my young son handed me a gift. Wrapped with brightly colored paper and tape, as fragile as a baby bird, it fit in the palm of my hand.

It was small, smaller than a box of matches. While around me all was lost in the flurry of the other kids opening presents, paper and ribbon tossed into the sky, floating, twisting and turning back to earth like whirlybirds from a silver maple, I carefully, silently unwrapped the tiny token.

It was used, with worn edges and shiny rub spots, weighing no more than a whisper, yet, more valuable than a diamond-encrusted swiss time piece. It was a golf counter for marking strokes, two little silver pegs to flick back and forth with each swing of the club.

The gift is so valuable, it sits to this day on my window sill in front of my desk, holding deep and abiding meaning because it was not a generic gift card or monotonous tie. He gave all his ten years of thought to a gift that would connect to something I, albeit poorly and with more than occasional embarrassment, participated in.

Its history was a mystery. But he wrapped it and gave it to me. And because he thought about it, choosing the specific item himself – it will forever be a most valued gift ever received.

Perhaps that is what I should strive for, to give gifts, specific gifts that entail thought and attention. They don’t have to be large or extravagant, or even material.

The gift can be time to sit and chat, help a neighbor connect cables to his new television, brush snow from a car parked behind yours, open a door, lift a package for a stranger, go to a sporting event with friends, share a meal.

Whatever the gift, the affects of the unexpected giving may be what is remembered, lasting years after the facts of a story have been absorbed into history – the affects of our purposeful actions like radio signals directed into space, not knowing who will hear their vibrations millennia into the future, yet, continue to echo . . . and echo . . . echo.

I do not want to be remembered.

I do not need a legacy of stone, statue of honor, grave marker, or memorial plaque.

I think I want to be missed.

And that can only occur when I have given a gift, a direct and personal gift for that person, the gift of unconditional love, beginning with my friends and family.

“Kindness, generosity and love move on, soul to soul. Only what we withhold is lost forever.”

Stephen Philip Walrath

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