Legacy of Love
Legacy of Love is from Kathryn Overall’s debut album, ‘Not All the Leaves are Falling’.
This song has collected family memories since I wrote it, age 21, the week before I was due to fly home to New Zealand to celebrate my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. I wasn’t intending to write a song for them, it just kind of turned up and it’s hung around ever since.
My sisters and I sang this song at their golden anniversary celebration, and again at their diamond anniversary ten years later.
That was an occasion to remember!
My 87 year old Gran (at the time) turned up to the party in her original wedding dress! She had even been on a diet to squeeze into it. Having just beaten throat cancer, Gran was living life to the full and had so much fun plotting this surprise with my mum and aunty. I smile every time I remember her as an 87 year old giggling bride.
Last November, I had nearly finished recording Legacy of Love for the album when my Grandad died suddenly in a gardening accident. I recorded the final vocals two days before the funeral so we could play the song to honour his legacy at the funeral.
I was so grateful the song was finished in time to be part of that sad and special day.
This song has come to mean more to me as I have have got older and have come to have a deeper appreciation of the extraordinary legacy of ordinary love.
I remember my Gran saying to me when I was a young girl that her dream in life was to have a good marriage and loving family. To be honest back then I thought she had set her sights a bit low as far as life goals go.
In my 20’s, my thoughts on what really mattered in life were a bit more ambitious. I was bright, achievement oriented and purpose driven. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, to have a fulfilling career, to make a difference in the world, to live up to my potential, to be healthy and fit, to develop my songwriting talent and leave my mark on the world, to fall in love and get married and have a family, to be financially secure and well-off.
As I have travelled through the highs and lows of life – living out some of those realities and falling short in others – I have come to recognise that learning to live a life of love is a truer, deeper, more fruitful goal.
And I have learnt that if I do not grow a heart of love, those earlier goals become empty in themselves.
To paraphrase the apostle Paul…
If I have a successful career and feel completely fulfilled professionally, but have not love, I am only a flashy news headline in yesterday’s newspaper that leaves no real impact. If I am a picture of health and fitness and can fit into my skinny jeans all of the time, but cannot love or accept others as they are I am nothing. If I am financially secure, and have a robust investment portfolio but do not have the generosity of heart to give to the needs and dreams of others, I gain nothing.
None of those things on their own are bad – but the pursuit of self-fulfillment without a heart of self-sacrificial love is an empty chasing.
It is love that makes everything else good.
My Gran’s dream may have looked simple on the surface, but there is nothing simple or small about choosing to live a life of love.
Also, as I came to understand more about the difficulties of her own family life growing up, I saw what a noble and transformative goal it was – and how well she did in living out this dream. I came to see the immense value of the love and security they offered to me and my family.
My Grandparents are salt of the earth folks – practical, resourceful, creative, church building, community minded, faithful people. They had their foibles and their squabbles, their triumphs and their tragedies but through it all they were a team – they were partners in everything.
I have been so moved by watching my Gran deal with the loss of her husband of 63 years. I am in awe of the fact that life never stops giving you new challenges to face into. At 91 I feel like she should be able to retire from the challenges of personal and spiritual growth, but here she is, facing into loss and grief with acceptance and with bravery, taking every day as a gift, still giving and receiving love, still looking out for the people on the edges, still trying new things.
I bought her The Secret Garden colouring-in book the week Grandad died and she spends hours choosing just the right colours and letting her creativity fill in the spaces.
She still lives alone, supported by her family and community help. She still looks out for others. Children have always been drawn to her love, kindness and warmth, and are drawn to her still. She still loves music and loves it when my sisters and I sing to her.
I am so proud of the way she faces in to it all and of her colourful, resilient, positive spirit, even though her strength is flickering.
I hope I can be like her when I grow up.