A Good Story
"We can't all leave a prestigious background or lots of money to visit our children, but we can leave them a legacy of love." - Naomi Rhode
This month's newsletter has nothing to do with business. It's all about how to live a life that really matters; how to live a life that will live on in the hearts of others after we have left this earth. As my good friend Larry Cole says, "Do you want people to come to your funeral to bid you farewell or to make sure you're dead?"
Our legacy is what we leave behind, what others remember about our lives. We lost the person that most touched my life, Byrd Baggett Jr., on the 20th of December. He was not only my father, but he was my best friend and hero. As I thought about sharing his story and why he had such a positive impact on my life and the lives of all he came in contact with, I thought of the fruits of the spirit that the apostle Paul references in Galatians 5:22:
These were the fruits of dad's life. He was always kind, gentle and patient and his goodness just made others feel at peace when they were in his presence. He was ever faithful to his family and friends - you could always count on him being there. Dad also had the right pace and grace. He never seemed to be in a hurry and lived every minute to its fullest. When you were in his presence, it was always about how you were doing and never about him - he genuinely loved others. And finally, as my good friend Lawson Magruder stated after dad's death, "Byrd, your dad lived a life of grace." That's the word that I will always have in my heart about dad - his grace. I've heard it mentioned that grace is when God gives you what you don't deserve, and mercy is when God doesn't give you what you do deserve. And that was dad - a man of grace and mercy, slow to anger and quick to forgive. And, who can ever forget dad's ever present smile. I now know that his joy was just an outward expression of his grace.
In retrospect, I was blessed to write and share dad's eulogy with him on the 18th of December, two days before his death. Following are the words that were shared at dad's memorial service to the many friends and family who came to bid him farewell…
"First, my sisters and I want to thank you so much for taking the time to join us as we honor the wonderful life of our Dad. Your presence is a beautiful testament to the fact that Pop touched so many lives in his 86 years on this earth. Before I share some words about his life, we thought it appropriate to share some of Dad's final words. On the afternoon of the 20th of December, Shantell, the hospice nurse and a true angel of mercy, summoned us to Dad's room, as she thought he might be close to the end of his life. Laura, I and Carolyne were holding Dad's hands when he said, "Tell everyone goodbye. Tell everyone goodbye."
It's been said that to live a good story is the deepest cry of every human heart.
And that's what Byrd Baggett Jr. did - he lived a good story. In writing this eulogy of Dad at his small kitchen table overlooking his cherished view of the Texas Hill Country, I was overwhelmed with the wonderful memories of his life. His never wavering love of our mother; his consistent belief in his son and daughters; the pride in his grandchildren and great grandchildren; his compassion for the less fortunate; his genuine admiration for the military; and the love for his many friends and family.
Even though I knew when writing these words that Dad only had weeks to live, I feel that we were blessed that he could plan his memorial service. He was adamant that this service be a celebration of life - his and ours - as he knew that he would be in a better place and participating in the grandest reunion with those that had gone before him. We are comforted to know that he's now with Mom, Mammie, PaPa, William Edward, Lillie, Big Sister, Uncle Roy, Uncle Bud, Aunt Gladys, Uncle Shorty, and Edward. And Carolyne, you can rest assured that Steve was one of the first to welcome Dad to his new home. Just imagine for a second the celebration that's taking place - no more tears; just pure joy and laughter. I know that he's talking to Edward and Uncle Shorty about the great times they had deer hunting at the Dittmar Ranch. Dad probably reminded Edward about the many times he asked if Edward wanted to build a deer blind at a certain spot on the ranch with Edward's typical response of "maybe next year." But the most emotional scene when Dad entered Heaven was the embrace that he gave his beloved wife, Billie Jean Baggett. Over breakfast on the 19th of December, Dad and I were talking about how much we missed her and how he couldn't wait to see her again. Again, just picture in your mind the scene of our healthy Mom and Dad - no more pain and suffering, just pure love and happiness.
The family and friends gathered here could spend several hours sharing the wonderful memories that they have of Byrd Baggett Jr., but Laura, Carolyne and I know for certain that Dad would be embarrassed that so much attention was being paid to him. Several years ago, I asked Dad why he was always happy and I'll never forget his response, "Bubba, I just think God put me here to serve others." And I think your presence is proof that Dad lived that legacy of service.
By now, Dad would be telling me that I need to quit talking about him. That's hard, as there is so much more to say about the positive impact that he had on me, my sisters, our families, and his many friends. In closing, I would like to share the following poem, The Wealthiest Man We Know that was written in 2001 in honor of our father…
The wealthiest man we know lives in a mobile home.
The wealthiest man we know proudly drives a well-seasoned truck with over 250,000 miles.
The wealthiest man we know wears a contagious smile.
The wealthiest man we know is always giving without expecting.
The wealthiest man we know loves life and people.
The wealthiest man we know took early retirement to nurse his ailing wife.
The wealthiest man we know lost his wife and best friend at the tender age of 57.
The wealthiest man we know gives daily comfort to his paralyzed friend.
The wealthiest man we know lost an infant son.
The wealthiest man we know survived major heart surgery.
The wealthiest man we know never complains.
The wealthiest man we know is at peace with himself.
The wealthiest man we know has a reservation in heaven.
The wealthiest man we know is our best friend and hero.
The wealthiest man we know is our father.
It's hard to let go, but we should be comforted in knowing that Dad is in the loving arms of his Lord and that he would want us to live our lives to the fullest. One last memory that Carolyne, Laura and I would like to share. We were visiting with Dad and asked him how he would like to be remembered. Dad took a few minutes to reflect on the question and then responded, "I just want people to know that I loved them." What a gift that he left all of us - his unconditional love.
Dad fought the fight, he ran the race, and he kept the faith. And, most importantly, he lived a good story and would want each of us to live the life we were born to live. We're certain that's what he would want.
In closing, I want to share some words from the Bible that we feel sustained Dad on his life's journey - "Those that hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint."
I've saved the best for last, a beautiful gift from Dad. Laura, I and Carolyne would like you to hear the final, comforting words that Dad spoke to us on the evening of the 20th of December before the good Lord welcomed him into his heavenly mansion:
"Be all right. Be all right."
I want to thank you for allowing me to share my dad's story with you. My hope is that you will reflect on the fruits of the spirit and pick one or two that you need to work on in 2011 to start living the legacy you want to leave behind. I'm working on patience and self-control!
For your reflection, I want to share what I feel is one of the most important questions in life, a question that we must answer if we wish to live a life of significance:
I want to be remembered as the person who _______________________.
I believe that those closest to Dad would say that he is remembered as the person who lived a life of grace.
In closing, I'll always be warmed by the words that our pastor, Wade Lindstrom, said about dad at his memorial service, "His life smiled."
May your life smile.
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