My Grandma’s Legacy

How do you keep writing when your biggest fan is gone?

My grandma died, rather suddenly, a few weeks ago. She was the first and most faithful reader of this blog. Last winter she talked about wanting to help edit the content into a book. She said she had it all outlined and organized in her mind already. Can you see where I got my love of writing?

When I tell my friends and Neil’s family about my grandma’s passing, they’ve said things like, “She was a very special lady” and “I really liked her.” Those close to her knew her faults, too, but she was truly impressive. People tend to brag about the deceased, but I bragged about her while she was still alive, including the post My Financial Heritage: A Mother’s Day Reflection, that I’m so glad I posted when I did.

The short story is that she had many jobs before having three children, then became a special education teacher for children with severe emotional/behavioral difficulties, fostered 17 children, and in retirement became a guardian ad litem, a child’s voice in court. She garnered awards in all her endeavors.

She was also an avid quilter, scrap-booker, reader, and Wizard of Oz afficianado. Her name was Dorothe.

Her financial personality? Spender. She’s the ultimate example of a great person who was not great with money. Fortunately her late husband, a banker, was.

She never gave me money advice, and, in response to my blog, said she wished she’d learned these things sooner. But she did pass on two personal finance lessons:

  1. If you find a sweater you like that fits well, buy it in every color. (Somehow I never latched onto this.)
  2. Live generously.

My grandma was extravagantly generous. Generous to a fault. And while her children may literally be faulting her for this as they deal with the messy aftermath of her finances, her generosity remains a powerful example to her naturally stingy first grandchild (that’d be me).

Even in my giving, I want efficiency to rule. I want to give to the most effective, efficient organizations only, and tend not to be very generous to fellow Americans who already have what they need (read: my friends and family). My grandma saw the value of both. And I’m trying to learn to be spontaneously generous to the people around me as I reflect on her habits.

She didn’t leave an inheritance, but she left a legacy. She changed my life far beyond impacting my very existence. She passed her faith on to me and that has transformed me from a sad, stingy person into a joyful, generous one. An invaluable impact.

In essence she spent any inheritance on us while she was alive, and it brought her great joy. It came in the form of frilly dresses and too many toys at Christmas when I was a kid. And in adulthood, it was kitchen gadgets, multi-level-marketing company products, and college fund contributions for my kids. And while I’d only recommend the latter as a solid use of money, my frugal soul has benefited more from these extravagances than it could have from any size inheritance.

Of course, it isn’t an either-or between leading a great life and being good with money. We should all think about leaving our finances in order for our families, whether we want to leave an inheritance or not. There are many good resources available that explain how to manage your assets, what documents to create, and how to organize them for your family. One such resource is found at the end of Dave Ramsey’s The Legacy Journey.

Leave a legacy. Plan for your funeral–not just financially, but relationally and spiritually.  “Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:18, 19).

What are your thoughts on leaving an inheritance and leaving a legacy?

9 Responses to “My Grandma’s Legacy”

  1. Jonathan says :

    Thank you, Kalie.

  2. Cindy Brick says :

    I thought of my own grandma when I was reading about yours. Grandma Cumings died when I was in high school; she never had a chance to meet my husband or our daughters. But I still live by some of her principles today:

    *Use it up. ALL of it. No matter what.

    *Don’t spend what you haven’t got. (In other words, stay within your income — whatever it is.)

    *Love your family…and treat others the same way.

    *Love your God, and honor Him first. He’ll take care of the rest.

    I still miss Grandma today, and look forward to seeing her soon. Thank you so much for writing lovingly — and honestly — about your grandmother.

  3. David says :

    My condolences. It sounds like your grandmother was a remarkable person, and one who was a great example of how to be joyful in life (that part also describes my grandmother who died a couple years ago – a huge influence on how to live life in such a way as to improve the lives of everyone you meet).

  4. AW says :

    I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother’s passing. I am glad for you that you were able to let her know how special she was to you in your Mother’s Day post. My grandmama’s been gone for ten years now and I’m so grateful she knew how truly impactful she’d been in my life. Somehow it makes it easier. Thank you for sharing your grandmother with us. She did leave a sweet legacy with you.

  5. Joanne says :

    You captured your grandmother perfectly. Whenever we talked, she always shared your adventures and her pride in you (and of all her family). You have indeed inherited much from her! I feel incredibly blessed to have had her in my life. She will be greatly missed.

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