“One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade” – Chinese Proverb
The last of the great generation of Rightmeier men, Lyle Rightmeirer was laid to rest this February with his wife Virginia . They were my Great Uncle and Aunt and passed within two years and two days of each other. My maternal granddad and grandma Rightmeier passed in the late 1990s, so technically they were the last of my direct ancestors. Yet, having living Greats still in the homestead county was a connection I will miss. It is hard to be too sad since they lived long productive lives, but still….
The Generational Baton Getting Closer
It has me thinking about the fact I am one generation closer to the last of my family tree on earth. Instead of being fourth or third, I am now second. Don’t misunderstand, I am not going anywhere in the near future, unless the rapture of the Saints occurs. In fact, I plan to be around for a very long time, but this remains: time is moving on and we all are being carried with it. Why pretend otherwise?
I appreciate the manner in which the patriarchs of the Bible handled this reality of baton passing. Most lived a very long time. Up until the flood some lived close to a millennia. Adam lived 930 years and Methuselah 969 and both were living when Noah started building the ark. None-the-less, no matter how long a patriarch lived, there are numerous examples of how they passed over.
Embracing The Baton Passing Time
From Noah, to Shem, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Saint Paul and even The Lord Jesus, when they became aware that the time of their departure was at hand, they took the initiative to speak words over the next generation. A kind of generational baton hand-off.
In some cases, it was at the deathbed with the family gathered to both say goodbye and hear the last words. For some it was a blessing, for others not so much. Usually it was a mix of someone in the the family receiving a blessing to carry forward, as well as correction and instruction from years of wisdom. For King David, this passing of the baton became a facet and responsibility of kingship and nobility.
Jesus gathered His disciples at the last supper to give instruction. You can almost hear the urgency in John chapters 14-16 as he pours out as much instruction and information as he is able before the going to the cross. After his resurrection, more interactions until the blessing, the great commission and His ascension.
For Paul, it was the church he wrote to from a Philippine jail with his final words. His epistles in the New Testament remain for us today.
Intentional Baton Passing
I am not sure when mankind stopped or modified this practice. Now, we wait until a loved one passes on, we celebrate their life, grieve our loss, take care of their worldly goods and move on. All of that is well, good and needed, but I would hope that, perhaps, in less formal private ways, the baton is still passed in households.
Our modern patriarchs and matriarchs need to know we honor their lives and that they do, indeed, have something to pass on, besides material goods in a legal last will and testiment. I am not sure what that looks like in our day and time, but its worth giving some thought to.
Taking Up The Baton
In any case, I am blessed to have known Uncle Lyle and Aunt Virginia. They had a special spunk and spark I so enjoyed. I loved:
- the endless and oft repeated stories Uncle Ike told and Aunt Virgina’s claim that they got “bigger” each time he told them.
- their sense of adventure well into their later years. Uncle Ike earned his private pilots license after he retired. Aunt Virgina volunteered in church and the community until she couldn’t.
- that they both played golf. No other Rightmeier played golf and no one
knows why Uncle Ike did. Aunt Virgina said she did so she would see her husband on the weekend!
- the large vegetable garden with rows so straight that would make our German ancestors proud.
- the abounding hospitality where you not only left with full bellies but full sacks of homemade and homegrown provision, plants to take home for your
- own, and smiles. Lots of smiles.
They left us a legacy to grow into for sure. A baton to catch.
The Rightmeier Baton
My part in catching the baton is capturing stories and writing them down. For most of the world, it matters not, but to the Rightmeier decendants, it is our heritage. Much of the Rightmeier tradition and history was handed down orally. It is past time to capture these in written form lest the baton drop.
How does your family deal with the passing of a generation? Please comment below and don’t forget to subscribe.