Tomorrow’s Legacy, Today

 {by David Rupert}


We sat in the middle of the floor, surrounded by thousands of photos . My sister and I were overwhelmed by these collected images from the generations of our family. Mom had boxes of pictures, stored in shoeboxes, crumbling albums and plastic bags and all put away in two massive trunks.


The photos were from both sides of the family tree, with many protruding branches. It was disorganized, almost hopelessly so. The photo locations, age and bloodlines were all mixed together in a cosmopolitan mix that was almost like a random time machine.


The busy redhead had the best of intentions to organize them, but she simply ran out of days. So the task fell to her children. We couldn’t just leave it in boxes for our kids, without instructions, without any historical context.


We viewed the task like a treasure hunt.  One of my favorite finds was a large 8×10 photo of Siegfried and Emma Bonus. He, with a dour look and a beard that touched his naval, was paired with a woman with jolly cheeks and well-formed laugh lines. I wonder what their home was like. And I loved the photos of my dad as a boy and how much my own sons looked like him.


My mind went crazy with the entire stimulus that writers find in the common and every day. Behind every photo is a story. Some I know, because they were retold at family gatherings. But most of these stories are lost to the sands of time, perhaps forever.


There were pictures of fishing trips and camp meetings, fields in harvest and babies in ornate cradles with lace hats. It was all interesting, but what did we need to keep?  Was it right to throw away a 110-year old photograph?  Many of the people in the photos we simply didn’t know. Perhaps they were acquaintances or distant family, but someone thought them important enough to photograph and to keep. Is that what memories should be, preserving what someone else felt what was important? Or do I get to choose?


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We all treasure memories. At most of my family gatherings, more than one conversation begins with the expression, “remember when?”


Stories spur conversation. But in a deeper way, it’s a tool to help us never forget, to carry a memory. If you don’t keep telling the story, the details may get fuzzy – or exaggerated.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard about the root beer on the carpet, or the sledding incident with the dog, or the fishing trip that ended with no fish and a canoe at the bottom of the lake. I know the details, but I want to keep hearing them, so I never forget.


In ancient times, legends were passed on through crude drawings on walls; verbal stories told around the fire and values passed from generation to generation through carefully scripted tradition.


The Bible reminds fathers to teach their children, for the young women to learn from the older women and for the young boys to be taught from their elders. It’s particularly critical for the sandwich generation – those adults stuck in the middle of two generations. I was there, until both my parents died within 11 months of each other. Suddenly, their children were charged with the family legacy.


The digital age means that many photos will be lost to scratched compact disks or nonfunctioning hard drives, the smiling faces forever lost to technology.


So what is the legacy that I will preserve for the generations, bottling them up for discovery one day by the curious time travelers? What will we wash away with the spin cycle of time, chalked up to that what was yesterday?


The questions are far more numerous than the answers. I hope the memory I give my children, and grandchildren is one of righteousness and truth, one that goes beyond mere pictures or words.


I wonder what they will need to know to survive through their deepest struggle.  Will they seek out the memory, and will it be there?




David2David Rupert on any given weekend can be found wandering the Rockies, fly-rod in hand, and trying to figure it out. He may be a communications professional and writer for a government organization by day, but by night, he’s taking seriously the call to encourage the Body. Spurring another to share their gifts, is a passion of his. He especially points to Christ’s words on his blog called Red Letter Believers and continues to reach others through his many publications in magazine articles. While he has his hands full, he is also the community editor at The High Calling, and adding to the list, his new book set to release in June 2014 is called  Disconnected: How to Turn Around Every Broken Relationship.  While yet another book, Make a Difference: Growth in Leadership, and many more writings by him can be found here as he continues to seek out more ways to encourage others.



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3 Comments on “Tomorrow’s Legacy, Today

  1. When you described the one photo with the man who had a beard to his naval with the jolly lady next to him, even though I could see it in my mind, I wanted to see the actual picture. Good memories have a way of getting us through hard times.

    • My sister and I have done this recently too-looking through pictures and wondering who some of the people were. We long to know the history and stories of those people. I also long to teach and show my children righteousness and truth. To leave a legacy that goes beyond pictures.

  2. I think often of the digital age and it’s role in preserving family legacy. Now that I don’t develop pictures anymore I rarely take the time to make physical copies of photos. So many are trapped in an old phone or computer and like you say run the risk of being forever lost to technology should these devices stop working. But the stories, I tell and more than ever feel it’s important to write….and I do. I love this “I know the details, but I want to keep hearing them, so I never forget.” – I want to carry the memory. Glad I stopped by David. Hope you’re well.

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