On Loss, Legacy, and Living by Your Heart

On Wednesday, Steve Jobs died. The world lost a great innovator who inspired millions to follow their dreams and think outside the box. He’s been eulogized a lot; I don’t need to add more than to say I’m one of those millions.

On Thursday, Barbara Hardenbrook died. You may never have heard of Barbara, but in her own quiet way—as a teacher, a pastor’s wife, a mother, grandmother, and friend—she touched the lives of hundreds of people spanning several generations. She was an extraordinary teacher, one of those rare few who can understand and bring out the best in children from challenged to gifted. She was unfailingly cheerful, kind, generous, and wise, with her own brand of humor. It made you feel better just to look at her. Her effortless efficiency made her visionary husband’s ministry possible. She raised a son who would follow in his father’s footsteps and a daughter who would follow in her own as a pastor’s wife. In a very different way from Steve Jobs, but probably with greater eternal significance, she did work she loved, lived fully from her heart, and left an amazing legacy.

I had the privilege of knowing Barbara for almost twenty years. I never met Steve (although we briefly coexisted on the Reed College campus) but I have been an enthusiastic Apple user for about the same amount of time. The passing of the two of them has made me think.

In his 2005 commencement address at Stanford, Steve said he looked in the mirror every day and asked himself, “If I knew I were going to die tomorrow, would I spend this day the same way?” If he couldn’t say yes to that question over a period of time, he knew something had to change. I know Barbara also kept the remembrance of death in the forefront of her mind and lived as if each day were her last.

I’m sorry to say I don’t live that way. I spend most days doing things I “have” to do rather than things I love or things that will leave a lasting legacy. If I were to die tomorrow, I would die with many regrets—among them, that I didn’t spend more time with people like Barbara when I had the chance. That I didn’t start writing seriously when I was young, so that I might have had a chance of writing full-time today. That I’ve been held back from all kinds of adventures by fear. That I am not making any discernible progress in growing into the image of Christ.

My prayer this night is that these losses will lead me to live more intentionally, more fully, more joyfully, more lovingly. To live in a way that will prepare me for death. A way that will create a legacy worth leaving.

Memory eternal, Barbara and Steve.

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2 comments on “On Loss, Legacy, and Living by Your Heart

  1. Thank you for this poignant reminder. Memory eternal…
    Melissa Braun

  2. Both will be missed, but I was blessed to know Barbara personally. Memory eternal for a dear sister in Christ, and example to so many of a loving wife, mother, and friend.

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