We belong to God, and so does our stuff
August 22, 2022 by Robyn Davis Sekula
A dear friend passed away in July. He was just 55 years old. Just writing that pricks my eyes with tears.
I could tell you that my heart sings when I think of Kevin meeting Jesus, and that I am overjoyed when I think of him in heaven.
But that’s not how I feel.
I just miss him, and my heart feels hollow when I think about all of the milestones my daughters will reach that I can’t share with him as they move into adulthood.
He loved, loved, loved my three daughters. They loved him right back. He was their confirmation mentor, their Sunday School teacher, their chaperone, and a foundational rock in their lives and in the life of our church. He was the kind of person you called when you couldn’t make sense of the world, and his rational, calm read on things would calm you down and give you hope.
In many ways, Kevin was an “adulty adult” who made everything feel like it would be OK – but I discovered shortly after getting to know him better that he had a wonderful sense of humor and delightful laugh, too.
For every party game that asks you who you’d like most to have dinner with, living or departed, I have a new answer: Kevin.
Kevin and I had some time to talk about the meaning of legacy, and the things he wanted to accomplish before he passed. Kevin was ill for a few years – and in some ways, this slow departure from our planet is a gift. It is time for you think through what matters to you, and how you want to be remembered. It gives you time to tell people you love them, and people get the chance to tell you how much you influenced them.
While many of us are in denial about death – and secretly think, well, maybe I won’t die! – Kevin knew it was coming, and made his plans to ensure that his earthly matters would be entrusted to the organizations and people he loved. He cared deeply for his family and wanted to ensure that they felt cared for and loved after his passing.
As I write this, I think about my own legacy. What, and who, do I love? What organizations have made a huge difference in my life, the life of my family, and my community? Who is changing the world?
I’d put my own church at the top of that list, and I hope that you would, too. For many of us, our churches are places we’ve spent an enormous amount of time, and given so much of our lives and energy. They’ve given back to us, too, surrounding us with love in difficult times, buoying our spirits when we’ve faced personal traumas, and bringing us meals when we were exhausted and couldn’t bear to think about cooking.
I think about the birth of my twins, and how our pastor held them on our back porch, tenderly, telling me about the birth of his own children. I think about my father’s death, and how the pastor at the time held my mom’s hands and cried with her, sharing her own story of widowhood with my mom. I think about the summer when I had a four year old, and twin toddlers, and my husband broke his leg and people brought me an abundance of meals for us to eat, and sat with me during his surgery in a hospital waiting room.
I think about the daily texts I get from friends from my church, and the ways people checked in on me, and I checked in on them, during this past year as Kevin declined and we began to realize our church would be going on without him.
One of the best gifts Kevin gave to his family and to our church is the preparation he did in the past few years. It’s a wonderful gift for you to give your family, too. Express both verbally and on paper (in a legal document) where you want gifts to go. It’s also crucial to tell the church or other ministries what your plans are, so that they know your intentions and know how you would like for your gift to be used.
You may not feel you have much to give. It’s not about the amount; it’s about acknowledging the importance of your church or an important ministry in your life and in the life of your family. Your estate plans tell your family what matters to you, and sets an example for the next generation. Your estate is the largest gift you’ll ever have to give.
What’s more, once this item is checked off of your to-do list, you’ll feel better. What a sense of relief to know you’ve had this hard conversation, you’ve made these plans, and you have been able to make choices that will both communicate your legacy and ensure that your church, the ministries you supported and so much more will continue to benefit from your generous spirit.
I have a will. It’s been in place since my oldest daughter was born. I’ll be getting it out and reading it over, and ensuring that the plans I made still make sense, and also considering making a larger gift to my church in my estate.
In life and death, we belong to God. And so does our stuff.
Robyn Davis Sekula serves as Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the Presbyterian Foundation. She is a ruling elder in the PC(USA) and member of Highland Presbyterian Church. Send comments on this article to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.