Our tech director shared a story last Sunday during our pre-service warmup that I just can’t get out of my head.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Alfred Nobel – at the very least you know about his peace prize. What I didn’t realize was the story behind how that last name came to be so well known.
Alfred Nobel had over 350 patents and established numerous armament factories. Two of his more notable inventions include dynamite and the blasting cap.
In 1888, Alfred’s brother, Ludvig, died. The press mistakenly reported that it was Alfred who had died. Alfred read his own obituary printed in the paper. It was titled, “The merchant of death is dead.”
In that moment, Alfred got a glimpse of how people viewed his work and the legacy that he would leave behind. He was distressed by what he read. Can you imagine such a raw and unfiltered assessment?
I tried to pay attention to the rest of the devotional but my mind wandered a bit. If I had to read my obituary right this minute, what would would others say about me?
I don’t really know how to answer that at this exact moment. I know what I’d like for people to say about my legacy, but let me share with you the first thought that popped into my head. What I immediately thought about was something my daughter said the day before. Earlier that weekend we went on a midnight bioluminescence kayaking tour. My husband and daughter kayaked together. I was with my son. It was such a fun experience, but apparently I “yelled” at him the whole time. My son needed some coaching on how to paddle correctly in order for us to get where we needed to go. I am absolutely certain that I did not raise my voice – not even once. I am also absolutely certain that I commended him for times he did well.
What he heard, though, was something different. He heard constant reminders. He heard “yelling.” And, according to my daughter, the whole tour heard it too.
So that’s where my mind went when I heard the story of Alfred Nobel reading his own obituary.
Will my life’s accomplishments be undone by my mom voice? I can see it now….
“Drill sergeant mother is no more.”
“Angry Hulk-mom dies.”
“The mom whose yelling could be heard above the Indy 500 is gone.”
Morose, I know. And all in good fun to an extent.
You see, in my heart of hearts, I know it won’t be that way. If you ask either of my kids what I say to them the most they will without a doubt say “I love you all the time no matter what.” If you ask them my favorite thing, they’ll say “hugs.” If you ask them what’s most important to me, they’ll say “Jesus” And if you ask them who I’m most devoted to on earth, they’ll say “us and our dad.”
Will that legacy shout louder than my cries to paddle left?
A sweet friend of mine recently lost her mother. I am so impressed with the legacy this woman leaves behind. Her love for Jesus was evident in how she lived – she was devoted to her family, she prayed, she served, she helped those less fortunate, she encouraged others, and she demonstrated unconditional love. Her children love Jesus because of her example. Others know Jesus because she shared His love with them. I did not know this woman, but her life – her legacy – affects me too because of what she taught her daughter, my friend. Oh how I want my legacy to be like hers.
Albert Nobel did a masterful job of reframing his legacy. He dedicated his wealth – hundreds of millions of dollars – to philanthropy. Upon his death he endowed his fortune to award those doing great work in physical science, medical science, chemistry, and literature. The most coveted prize, though, is awarded to the person who shows the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity (AKA peace). Critics questioned his motive for creating these prizes, saying he just did it to improve his reputation. Maybe there’s truth to that – that’s not for me to judge. What I know is that he realized the need to change his path and he did.
For years I’ve had a “word” to start the new year. It’s a word that will be my focus for that year. Do you do that too? My word has been the same word two years in a row: intentional. I don’t see that theme going away any time soon.
Hearing this story is just what I needed to help me realize that it’s time to get intentional about the mark I am leaving behind – so that my legacy is marked by encouragement and my love for others and my Savior.
I’d rather my future obituary not point out that while I was a good person, I spent a lot of impersonating the Hulk. 🙂