Have you ever wondered about your own family, about those who have gone on before you and those who have yet to come? Have you thought of the legacy you want to leave someday?
Recently I visited my ninety-three year old grandmother. She has lived an amazing life, was a writer for the local newspaper, raised three boys, traveled the world and ever loved being part of the community. She had the sharpest memory of anyone I’ve known and resides still in her own home. I loved growing up and having my grandfather & her come and visit us yearly. Oh how I love her!
On my recent visit to her home she told me the story of how she was able to go to college. My grandmother grew up in humble circumstances on a farm. She remembers riding bareback to their two room schoolhouse and churning butter. College education was important to her family and so when my grandmother graduated from high school (which she did at age sixteen) her grown brother paid the $500 tuition for my grandmother to go to The University of Idaho. Her mother went to work in a market and sent $30 monthly to provide for my grandmother’s room and board. Her older sister sewed all of my grandmother’s clothing, including her dress suits. My grandmother worked as a Resident Assistant and earned $30 monthly to cover everything else. The sacrifice of my forebears allowed my grandmother to go to college in the 1930’s where besides furthering her education she also met my grandfather and they eventually married. This union brought forth my father and later myself. Their sacrifices brought me to the family I am in today. Their sacrifices turn my heart towards them in love, humility and great appreciation.
Our Founding Fathers too understood the importance of family and legacy. One remarkable example of this is Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s own grandchildren often lived with him and spoke of remembrances of their beloved grandfather. Granddaughter Ellen Wayles Randolph wrote, “He took pains to correct our errors and false ideas, checked the bold, encouraged the timid, and tried to teach us to reason soundly and feel rightly. . . . He was watchful over our manners, and called our attention to every violation of propriety. He did not interfere with our education . . . except by advising us what studies to pursue, what books to read, and by questioning us on the books which we did read.”1
A visitor of Monticello and the Jeffersons, Mrs. Margaret Bayard Smith wrote while watching Mr. Jefferson interact with his grandchildren, “”He seemed delighted in delighting them,” and noted that “while I sat looking at him playing with these infants, one standing on the sopha with its arms round his neck, the other two youngest on his knees, playing with him, I could scarcely realize that he was one of the most celebrated men now living, both as a Politician and Philosopher.” Jefferson was an involved grandfather, teaching Ellen how to play chess, buying Virginia a guitar, and sharing the delights of the flower garden with Anne.”2
Other Founding Fathers understood the importance of family and legacy as well. George Washington’s grandchildren grew up in his home. In John Adam’s later years his children moved near him and thus blessedly his children and grandchildren surrounded him. Benjamin Franklin searched out his ancestors and living relatives in England and treasured any anecdote he ever found about them. Many more such examples may be found. These great men valued family just as we should today. What legacy are you leaving?
1“Our Breakfast Table.”The Thomas Jefferson Foundation.<http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/our-breakfast-table>