What would you do, if during your child’s last hour on earth, they asked you to make a promise to carry on their work?
Six years ago today marks the last time I ever saw my brother. My husband, Austin, and I went to see a movie and laughed together. I had no idea it would be the last, that the very next day he would be missing. I think he did though. I think he had a plan for the next day that we still don’t know all the details of, but meant that we would never see him again. I think that night out might have been a gift, something he gave me without me knowing at the time what it meant. Or maybe that night changed his plan, not wanting to bring pain into our home. Or maybe there was no plan that night, maybe there was only laughter and the illness of depression took it’s final stronghold that next morning. We may never know. We have lots of maybes, and very few knowns.
I struggle with those questions, and with what he would want us to be doing six years later. I don’t think he could have seen, in the darkness of depression, that what he did would still be so heavy on us. His heart was too good and loving to want this for us. But I do believe if he could see now, he’d be proud of what we’re trying to do.
Last week I had the great honor of hearing a man speak, a man who almost 18 years ago made a promise to his dying daughter. She asked him to carry on her work. Her name was Jenny Eller, and she’d battled Leukemia for almost four years. During that time, she was a fierce advocate for donating blood, as she had herself needed hundreds of units during her treatment. Her father, Dean Eller, started fulfilling that promise just a few days after her death when he spoke to a group about the need for donating blood, a group she was scheduled to speak to. He went on to become a tireless advocate, and eventually to lead the Central California Blood Center where he helps ensure that there is always blood for any patient who needs it. I’ve been in the beautiful building that he had a vision for, named for his daughter, and seen donors in the chairs fulfilling that promise.
He is fulfilling a promise. He is leaving a legacy.
Since hearing Dean speak, I’ve been thinking more about my message and my legacy. Not just for Austin, but for my own sons. When I’m gone one day, what will I have left or impacted. What do I want my message to truly be?
I want to help others find their purpose and leave their legacy.
Dean helps ensure that there is blood for everyone who needs it. (And we should be a part of that by donating at our local blood center!) My mom Christy works in Search and Rescue, helping families like ours, and is leaving a legacy of service.
What is your passion? Where can you have an impact? Never think that your story, your voice, or your life is too small. Never think that what you do doesn’t matter. It matters. You may not have a platform like Dean, or the skills of my mom. But what you have can have an impact of your family and the community around you. And when you teach your children to be involved, to care, to donate, you are leaving a legacy.
This year, I have a new purpose, to grow out of my comfort zone and go where God is calling me. This year I plan to speak to groups, churches, and my own community, about finding your purpose.
I can’t wait to see where that takes me. It can’t take me back six years to another day with my brother. But maybe it can help others facing that same darkness of loss.
The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.
~ Proverbs 20:7, NLT