Nurturing Elders – December 2011
A few years ago, I attended the Spokane commemoration that paid tribute to one special lady. Earlier in her life, Marie knew about domestic violence from within. But for the past 20 years, she has been a key volunteer at the Women’s Hearth, an inn for women victims of domestic violence.
Like Marie, many women there have moved from victims to finding enough security and support to discover that they are both loved and able to love, to be trusted and to be trusted. For Marie, part of her journey was to become a successful sculptor of smaller pieces. I still have a tender photo of her “Grandma of God,” a grandmother surrounded by children.
Her artwork and her true expressions of hospitality as a “welcome” at the Women’s Hearth have been part of her legacy for many years. I hope that her legacy of values has been continued in many ways by those who knew her.
Isn’t that what “heritage” is all about? The legacy of values is what we receive from people in our lives who pass on values, attitudes, and actions that help us do what we are.
There is a wonderful “prayer of offering” in the United Methodist Ritual of Death and Resurrection. It begins with thanking God that a person is remembered for who that person was to “make us who we are.” It’s a legacy, people. It is important to remember people whose values and actions inspired us after they died. But heritage is also very active when we accept the values and actions of people while they are still!
Our family has what I call our “sourdough legacy.” In the fall of 1973, when we were settling in our new parish on Lake Chelan, we were visited one day by a retired pastor and his wife. They brought us a gift that we still use – a cup of sourdough appetizer. But this was no ordinary appetizer for sourdough.
They brought it with them from Anchorage in the early 1950s after serving the church there. The starter gave them a real digger of sourdough, which was inherited by the starter who returned from the gold rush of Alaska in the late 1800s.
Our family started using a starter to make waffles or pancakes every Sunday before I went to church. That tradition lasted until we moved to Sandpoint in 1988 when I had to come to church early to prepare for the first of two services.
But Sue and I kept the sourdough starter fresh (and well used) for 48 years. We also shared it with friends who are eager to try it out.
A few years ago, we gave the starter to our son and his family. They have been using it every Sunday for several years. Our son quickly became both a starter mixer and a waffle maker. Our then eight-year-old grandson insisted that Dad make waffles, because they are made with “boyish love”.
Our daughter-in-law took the starter to her family members in Mexico. Imagine that – our Alaska sourdough appetizer is now an international sensation! During the Christmas week, Sue and I will enjoy our wonderful family. Yes, we will be indulging in our Sourdough Legacy on Sunday morning, the day after Christmas. We will also continue to pass on the values and hopes that support us today, tomorrow and into whatever future we have ahead of us.
What important legacies will you share with your family and friends today? Don’t wait for your life to come to an end before you think about what values you need to pass on – and in what ways. Enjoy your inherited values and let others enjoy them! Thanksgiving tradition as a legacy? Some legacies are very tasty.
Reverend Paul Graves is a retired and reoriented United Methodist pastor and longtime resident of Sandpoint, Idaho, where he previously served on the city council and as mayor. His second career is in geriatric social work, and since 2005 he has been a leading expert in the training of senior lawyers, the Ministry of Counseling and Teaching on Aging. This post was republished with the permission of the author from his column on Spokane FaVS.