I opened the drawer in the kitchen. Mum’s kitchen knife. It had near-mystical power. Whatever meal had to be prepared, out would come this knife. The blade was about four inches long and had some kind of micro-serrated edge. It had a nice wooden handle that fitted snugly into the hand. ‘Where’s my knife?’ she would say, the draw would open and the magic would begin. Carrots? No problem. Meat? Like butter. This knife had presided over thousands of meals and snacks. Everyday meals, Christmas meals, Easter Sundays, Saturday evening sandwiches in front of the telly meals; Birthday cakes, Christmas cakes, summer salads: The milestones on one family’s journey. In Mum’s hands this knife was like a magic wand, it had power.
When we move house we leave so much behind. Far more than we realize. The plant and flowers in the garden, the way the garden is laid out, the garden shed, and if we are not careful a few tools left behind, too. We go into the house and remember painting the wall in that particular shade of whatever. The shelves we put up, the new front door. Our identity stamped on the house, and now it’s our turn to pass this on. The next family can accept what we leave behind or change it to make it their own.
How many visits to the beach have concluded with the conversation in the car discussing whether it’s worth driving back to the beach to find some item or other we have left there? The flotsam and jetsam of a family day spent on holiday, another thing left behind as we journey through life.
When we move on from one job to another there are legacies we leave behind: The file in the ‘do not delete’ section of the mainframe; the numerous systems we set up and have now become the warp and weft of the way a job is done; the memories we leave our work colleagues and the little social ways we helped to make the place we worked at a little more pleasant.
When I was studying at college I used to go home for the weekend, and I have to confess that when I arrived the first thing mum and I would do is make a cup of tea and sit in front of the telly and watch a program called ‘Little House on the Prairie’. I know. I was young and during a turbulent time in my life, I liked that kind of portrayal of stability. One episode caught my attention. The opening featured a table being transported on the back of a pick-up truck. Since the series was based in the 1800s you knew there was something more going on here. It turns out that the father of the ‘Little House’ family had made this table one hundred years before, investing a lot of time and energy in it, to the exclusion of his family, in order to create an heirloom or a legacy. The point of the episode being that the most important legacy we leave to our children is the way we bring them up.
Thinking about scripture, we have Abraham leaving the legacy of the promises. Haman, the dubious legacy of being seen almost as a pantomime baddie still ‘hissed’ at today as the story is told. And Jesus himself left the greatest legacy of all – hope, forgiveness and eternal life.
I look at the kitchen knife now. It seems somehow empty of power. It lies dead at the bottom of the drawer. The once shiny handle has dulled now with lack of use. Mum spent her last years in a care home as dementia robbed her of her lifetime of memories. I close the drawer. The knife itself has now become no more than an object by which we remember and cherish the person who once used it. Her true legacy and the blessings she brought to us lie within her children still and for that I am profoundly grateful.