This past Memorial Day weekend I visited the grave of my mother. My mother passed away quite young at the age of 49. There was a colorful display all across the cemetery of the various ways people memorialized their dear departed loved ones. Flags to honor those who served the country in the military. Titles of honor like “mother” and “father” to honor those who served their families with their whole lives. Words of faith and hope that look forward to our promised reunion.
The visit stirred memories of not only my parents, but my grandparents and several others in our lives, both living and passed. It also caused me to think of my own life and my legacy. How will I be remembered when I pass? How have I honored those who were most important to me? What will become of everything I worked for in my life?
In the words of institution, the words the pastor uses to prepare worshippers to receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion we hear Jesus’ own words, “…do this in memory of me.” There is a peculiar distinction in the original language that we miss in most English translations. The words “in memory of me” or “in my memory” are not just a remembering of something past, but a promise that carries forward into the present. It is as if Jesus was saying, “Do this, and I will be there with you again. Do this, and what I did will happen again as if for the first time just for you.”
I wish our memorials could have such staying power. Flowers wither and die. Even monuments carved in stone weather and erode, their original intricate markings and sentimental words diminished with each passing year. But what if there was a way to truly memorialize a loved one or to leave a legacy of our own that would really last?
It is possible! The Southeastern Minnesota Synod and many churches in our synod have an endowment or memorial fund of some sort. Individuals can create estate gifts, endowments and trusts. A gift to one of these can memorialize a loved one or create your own personal legacy. These tools can be a way to express values and give continued encouragement of the things that were important to you or your dear departed loved ones. Such a legacy gift can become a perpetual memorial that keeps doing the work of a lifetime long after that life is over. And these are not just the tools of the rich and powerful. They are available to the average person, family or congregation.
If you are interested in creating a memorial or legacy that lasts longer than cut flowers I’d be happy to talk with you. And don’t worry, I’ve got nothing to sell you and I don’t work on any kind of commission. I am purely a servant of the church, here to help you carry out your wishes. I will help you create a lasting legacy for your loved ones, your congregation, and whatever charitable causes are important to you.
Tharan Leopold is the ELCA Foundation’s Regional Gift Planner in the Southeastern Minnesota Synod. His services are available at no charge to congregations interested in building and growing endowments and other planned gifts, and to individuals interested in creating estate plans that will provide legacy gifts to local congregations, other ministries of the ELCA, and to charitable causes important to them. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.