My mom would have turned 67 today. This world got her for 52 years and for almost 26 of those, she was by my side. What a gift. In honor of the day she was born, within minutes of her twin brother Paul, I celebrate her life today and the legacy she left for us.
I think of my mom when I hear the word Legacy. It’s not just because she worked for Legacy Health System in Portland most of my life and I heard her use the word a million times. It’s because the word legacy speaks to the valuable things handed on from one generation to another and what she left for us is beyond measure. My heirlooms are not things I hold in my hands, but things that are in my heart.
People say she lives on in us; my siblings, my dad and all those she rubbed off on. Her goodness, her quirks and even some of her shortcomings are woven into each of us. So much of who I am and what I do is because Peggy was my mom. Yes, I am unique and God is continuing to shape me, but I am honored when people say that I’m like her. I know the name of almost every flower that grows in the West, I love to dance and I would eat shrimp everyday if I could. I am intensely loyal, I am chatty and forgetful and I’m prone to give all my time away to others.
One time we laid side by side and measured to find that we were the same length from shoulder to fingertip and hip to toe. Same height and same shoe size. I got her flat butt and her perky personality.
Parenting methods and philosophies are insignificant compared to the impact we make by who we are on a daily basis. That is what our children will learn. I am like my mom because I have her DNA and because I watched her live. There were plenty of intentional lessons along the way, but she didn’t sit down and teach me how to put others at ease in my presence, she just was that person and now I am too. I saw her be faithful, give generously and stand up for what she believed in. She spoke the hard truth and she did it with kindness in her words and love in her heart. She was joyful, affectionate and honest about her fears and failures. She laughed a lot, she trusted God and she was brave.
Those are the things we inherited from her. I’m sure she had moments she wasn’t proud of, but the good things were her hallmarks and they stuck out above the rest. Her legacy is one that is worth handing down and I intend to do that.
The summer after she passed away, I was working at Forest Home and part of my role was to speak twice a week in front of 100 or so teenaged girls. These messages were meant to be Biblically based, inspiring and from my heart. The truths God was teaching me, the ways He was comforting me and the trials that had changed my fabric came through in almost every topic I covered that summer. I couldn’t stop talking about her and how she taught me to love God and to embrace the me He had created. Just like she did in life, she was pointing people back to Jesus. During that summer and the 12 summers that followed, her story was woven into the messages of hope that I got to share. The teenagers and young adult staff that spent those years with me feel like they know her. I remember hearing a group of them talking about what “Peggy said” and how she helped them understand God more. She was a light bearer, carrying around in her broken body the light of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:7 “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God and not from ourselves.”
I want to remember her in every way. I often think of Jonah in Sleepless in Seattle when he wakes in the night calling for his mom that has recently passed away. His dad (Tom Hanks) goes in to comfort him and Jonah says, “I’m starting to forget her.” I know that fear. I want to remember my mom’s face and her laugh and the way she would snack on slices of Tillamook cheddar or cottage cheese with chopped tomatoes and Ak-Mak crackers. I want to remember what she sounded like when she’d sing “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables and how loudly she would cheer at my brother’s baseball games. I don’t want to forget her.
My mom passed away just weeks after learning that her first grandchild was being knit together in my sister’s womb. He is turning 14 next month. It has been a prayer for my siblings and I that our children would know her. That they would hear stories and see pictures and ultimately that they would feel close to her as we share her legacy. My kids are getting to the place now where they can grasp “who is who” in our family; which aunts and uncles belong to which side, who married in, which grandpa is their dad’s dad, etc. The other night as I was reading the ABC of Canada book to my kids, we got to “P” is for “Peggy’s Cove,” which is a little community in Nova Scotia. I asked the kids if they knew anyone named Peggy and my 4 year old son said, “Yes! Your Peggy mama who’s gone up to heaven.” The tears welled up in my eyes. He really knows who she is.
She is a golden thread woven through my very being. She won’t make it into history books for her contributions to society, but she’s a hero in our family’s history. Evidence of her faithfulness, her wisdom and her strength will carry through generations. My Peggy Mama. A legacy.