The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Psalm 16:6, KJV).

Recently Robin Meade from HLN went skydiving with former President George H.W. Bush on the occasion of his 85th birthday. She also interviewed Mr. Bush, asking him about the “L” word. I was puzzled. “Liberal?” “Lesbian?” That’s what that letter usually stands for when used in such a manner. But Ms. Meade meant “legacy,” and Mr. Bush seemed to understand that. I guess I’m behind on my interview alphabet vocabulary.

In response, Mr. Bush said, as I recall, that historians would have to judge what he did well and what he did poorly. Pretty standard answer, but nonetheless true.

Indeed, for all of us, history—the outcome of our stories, however large or small they may be—must be the judge of the sort of legacy each of us leaves. When we depart this world (or end our active career, as in Mr. Bush’s case), will it be a better place for our having been in it? Did we pass along something of value to sons and daughters, friends and community, that will endure and help them in turn to make a positive contribution to their world?  

I don’t believe my wife’s late dad ever worried about a legacy, but he most certainly left a positive one. This is the first Fathers’ Day since Neal joined the Church Triumphant, and I want to honor him. As I said, Neal didn’t fret about a legacy. He simply lived his life faithfully, honorably, gratefully, peaceably, honestly, fruitfully, and lovingly, and trusted “the good Lord” for the outcome. He and Elaine wanted to raise their children to be responsible adults, and I can testify that they indeed succeeded. The values they imparted continue to stand Warren, Susan, and Jeff in good stead. Neal’s example and wisdom, I am confident, will shape, inform, and inspire generations of Smiths for years to come.

Neal lived to see the birth of his great-granddaughter Norabeth and hold her in his arms. Thanks to what he taught Norabeth’s grandfather Jeff, and Jeff passed along to his son Brett, the little girl’s dad, Norabeth will grow up saying “Yea, I have a goodly heritage.”

Thanks be to God for Neal Smith.

© 2009 Tom Cheatham