Over the Labor Day weekend, my mother, brother and I rented a car and drove from Louisiana to northern Missouri to attend a family reunion. I enjoyed it because I got to meet family I had never met before. As is the case with every reunion, there was good food. There was the occasional comment about how there weren’t going to any grandchildren on my side of the family. And also there were the stories of our family roots. Where our family came from. How they ended up where they were. There was also the common lament that as a family we had not done a good job of documenting our history. We are slowly losing the oldest generation of our family and with them a clearer understanding of our family’s legacy.
On my father’s side of the family, we have pieced together what we can. We know that my great great-grandfather, Hermann, came to America in the 1840s and worked in New Orleans until joining the military to fight in the Mexican-American War. After the war, he wanted to go back to Germany because of unrest that was brewing. Somehow, his mother found him in France and convinced him to return to the States. After returning, the Civil War began and he joined the Illinois 16th Infantry. Through various regimental accounts, we can piece together his movements across the eastern United States over a period of four years.
Of my grandfather, Wayne Gottreu, I have but a few pictures and letters. He died when my father was in college. I know he was a model-maker in the Army but that is about it. I don’t even know what kind of job he had when he returned home.
My father attended the University of Missouri and was in the marching band. He was a mechanical engineer, in a Barbershop quartet, and a good father. But there is so much about him that I will never know. He died when I was thirteen.
So that brings us to the present. There are very few Gottreus from our family left. There are days when I wonder whether God intends for me to get married. My hope is that I will get married one day, and to have children. With children our family name would continue. For many people that is how they leave a legacy. I guess I am not any different. However, I want to leave behind more than just a family name. I want to leave behind more than a couple of pictures and a tombstone. I want to leave behind more than a couple of dollars in a bank account. I want my legacy to extend beyond this physical world.
There is a quote from the movie Gladiator that comes to mind. “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” I think this sums up how I want to view my life as a follower of Christ. Each day I want to live out the great commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If I do, then my actions will have an impact upon others and eternity. And as I love God and others, I also want to live my life fulfilling the Great Commission of making disciples of Christ. As people surrender their lives to Christ in faith for salvation, that will impact their eternity. That is a legacy worth leaving and that is a legacy worth remembering.