Thursday, March 24, 2005

Leaving a Legacy

“A good man leaves an inheritance [of moral stability and goodness]
to his children’s children . . ." ~ Proverbs 13:22 (Amplified)

In a recent e-mail, my father asked the following question:” Where do you get all the Bible quotes and then be able to relate them to your article?” Here is my response – in case anyone else has wondered the same thing.

“That's a good question. I guess you could say that I collect Bible verses. I have about 50 different categories/subjects saved on my computer. Then, whenever I come across a verse that fits in with a particular subject, I just add it to that category. I also subscribe to a free "Bible verse a day" service from, which they send via e-mail. Sometimes I just recall a verse from memory. I often go to a web site called, where I can simply type in a word or subject and it will bring up all the Bible verses with that word in it. Then you can click on another button and it will show you that verse in other versions of the Bible.”

While we’re on the subject, there’s something else I’d like to address. Since I frequently write about God and incorporate Bible verses into my weekly column, I imagine that some of you might be curious about our religious affiliation. Well, Keen and I aren’t actually members of any religion and we haven’t attended church for over twenty years. (We used to attend a non-denominational church faithfully, until the pastor had an affair with the piano player.) Keen was raised Baptist and I was raised Catholic, but together we are simply Christians. We love God and we strive to live a life that is pleasing to Him. We seek His will and purpose for our life and pray for His guidance in fulfilling that purpose. With our children, we raised them up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) We have turned to God and prayed as a family during times of trials and we have thanked Him in times of triumph. This is the most valuable legacy we can pass on to our children, for it is one that will not only see them through their own life struggles, but more importantly, will last into eternity.

“This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.”
~ Patrick Henry

To continue with that theme, I’d like to write about the importance of sharing your thoughts and feelings with those you love, while you still can. This point was driven home to me recently while watching an episode of the Jane Pauley Show. One of Jane’s guests was a middle aged woman who just found out that she was dying from a terminal disease. As a result, she decided to start a video diary for her young son where she told him how much she loved him and shared all her hopes and dreams for his life. She said, “Don’t wait until you’re dying to tell your family that you love them. Sit on the porch step with your sister – and if you have a thought, write it down.”

Several years ago my sister Connie took a seminar on the subject of “ethical wills.” I had never heard of this, but according to their web page,, it’s a way to share “your values, blessings, life's lessons, hopes and dreams for the future, love, and forgiveness with your family, friends, and community.” In contrast to your last will and testament, ethical wills are shared with loved ones while the writer is still alive.

Barry K. Baines, M.D., wrote an interesting book on this subject titled: Ethical Wills: Putting your values on paper. On page 100, Dr. Baines shares an example of how one father described his purpose in writing to his three grown children:

“It is my hope in writing my ethical will that I will be able to record for posterity some of my values and visions for the future. I hope this will help each of you as you plan and carry out your life. In my studies of leaving a legacy, I was reminded how important it is for parents and grandparents to share and record what is important to them. For posterity’s sake, I have attempted to record some of my experiences and what I believe in, some history of what I have done with my life, and lessons I have learned along the way.”

Isn’t that wonderful? As someone who has spent a good portion of her life grabbing a pen and paper to record the brilliant and/or witty things my husband and children have uttered over the years, I certainly agree with this concept.

Ruth Graham Bell, the wife of Billy Graham, once wrote a book titled, It’s My Turn. Mrs. Graham shared about how she always started a diary optimistically at the beginning of each year, but she never seemed to keep it up. “But I kept writing bits and pieces, things I didn’t want to forget,” she wrote. “It’s rather like snapping pictures. You can capture something for keeps that would otherwise be forgotten tomorrow.”

Here is a perfect example from my own life –a cherished letter I received from my stepmother, Barbara Brady.

February, 2003

Dear Eileen,

Having just received that wonderful Valentines letter from you and all the pictures, I am compelled to write and tell you what's on my mind.

You and Keen should be so proud of your accomplishments. You have raised 4 nice young men who have certainly made you proud of them and with love of family so intact. I read that letter and see what has been accomplished in the Umbehr family in the course of a year, you wonder how it is all possible. We know without the right people at the helm, it would not happen. Not only parents but also friends to their children who have made them feel good about themselves, wanted and loved. A house that has God in its midst for sure.

I just want you to know how proud I am of each and everyone of you. Keen is remarkable and so full of courage. Eileen you have held it all together with your determination and love. I am so proud of Jared. He has done so well and has a beautiful family and rose above his initial problems. And none of us are without them. Which only goes to prove there is a place for everyone, you just have to find it. Josh of course has been so diligent and so full of God it is no wonder that he is where he is. He also has much to look forward to with his wonderful girl, Lisa - and their future is so promising. Keener is doing great and will without a doubt make you even more proud than you are already. Pancake, [Kirk] or should I say Waffle, is going to be the best for sure. He will be just like Keen when he is fully grown. I guess I better get a new name for him.

Anyway, I am so proud of you all and your accomplishments. Eileen and Keen you have done such a wonderful job raising your family and teaching the important things in life to them. Congratulations and Much Love to all of you this Valentine’s Day and always.

Your parents must be very proud of you.



I ask you, could there be any greater gift?

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers . . . I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

~ III John 2,4 (NKJV)

Grandma Barb with Keen and boys