In November 2011, I heard words I never thought I would hear: “Hi, Dr. Lichi, we just got the results of your biopsy. I hate to give you this news over the phone, but you have cancer. It’s called ‘Multiple Myeloma’ and 70% of your blood plasma is already occupied…your life is about to change.”
My first impulse was to ask, “Would you spell that? … What does this mean? … How serious is this and what is the prognosis?”
From that moment, a new journey began for me in so many ways. But, with the support of my wife, family, the Body of Christ, and the direct work of God’s healing presence, I am still here; in some ways, more alive than ever.
Those early months were full of dark days. Depression, physical pain, the inability to walk for over 8 months, enduring massive doses of chemotherapy, and perhaps the greatest concern of them all for me — that I would miss out seeing my grandchildren grow to maturity.
I had many honest conversations with God. Just the two of us. Telling him my concerns and questions — from the heart and honest to God. Basically asking: “Lord while I’m not afraid of death and I know my eternity is secure in Christ; I really would like to see how my grandkids turn out.”
Mine is not a unique story. In many respects we all aspire to honor and significance in life and in our relationships. Psalm 78 describes the importance of telling God’s story to the next generation. The book of Ruth describes a particular bachelor named Boaz whose integrity was honored and respected by everyone. As a result, he actually had to honor of sharing in the earthly lineage of Christ. Boaz is remembered as an honorable person.
Paul reminds the church at Ephesus that “honoring your mother and father is the first commandment with a promise (ref. Ex. 20:12).” To be remembered with honor is one of life’s greatest rewards. When I received that bad news about my prognosis in 2011, I never realized how much God would yet have in store for me. Not only am I around now to see my grandchildren, but I am determined to make the most of this incredible opportunity and honor. To honor my grandkids each year I read through a new Bible and day by day, as I read I write and fill the pages up with notes, lessons, and puns, custom-written and uniquely crafted. At the end of the year I have the privilege of gifting each grandchild with such a Bible.
Every day now is a gift — not just an opportunity to see what I can get out of life, but rather what I can add to the lives of the people who matter the most to me. The grandkids are close to the top!
People may not remember the awards we won, the deals we made, or the things we acquired. But, they will remember how we lead, listen, learn, labor, limit, love, and leave…that is our legacy.
The question arises: How will people remember us?
Here are some legacy lessons gleaned from the life of Boaz*. He was:
1. A Leader — We will be remembered for the way we led others. Was it with humility and servanthood? Do we value and respect others?
2. A Listener — Do we give full attention; wait for answers; make appropriate eye contact; and genuinely care for others? Most weeks I have the joy of taking my mother (age 91) to breakfast to honor her and listen to her sage advice.
3. A Learner — Do we value being a ‘life-long’ learner? Do we enjoy learning new ideas?
4. A Laborer — Did I model a strong work ethic with a sense of duty, joy, and responsibility? Did I provide for my family?
5. A Limiter — Did I set appropriate boundaries to guard my own heart, marriage, family, friends, and co-workers?
6. A Lover — Was I self-denying? Did I put the needs of others before my own needs? Did I love well and allow myself to be loved by others?
7. Leaving A Legacy — Do I take a generational perspective?
Related Scriptures for additional study: Psalm 78: 1-8; Ruth; Ephesians 6:2
*Some of the ideas regarding ‘honor’ were derived from my mentor, Dr. Richard D. Dobbins, founder of Emerge Counseling Ministries.