Recently, I had the privilege of attending the funeral of Maria Teresa de Giustina Standridge, one of the most godly women I have ever met. People from all over Italy gathered in a suburb of Rome, in a small meeting hall (small for American standards and without air conditioning) in the early afternoon to pay our respects. There was standing room only, and the service lasted over an hour and a half. I was sweating in places of my body I didn’t know existed!
Why would people go to such measures to be there in such conditions? Simply put, because Maria Teresa left us a legacy. If there had been more time (and more chairs and air conditioning), almost everyone there would have had memories to share about her impact in their lives.
My debt toward her had many dimensions. Being a senior missionary with her husband Bill, my parents admired their ministry and family life enough to want to emulate them. When our family was young, we would drive two hours south to Rome to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. I don’t remember the food, but I remember the love. Ironically, Maria Teresa was Italian, but she adapted well to her husband’s traditions learning, among other things, to make and train others in the great art of apple pie!
Every time I saw her, she would run up to me with a big smile to give me a hug (American) and a kiss (Italian) and remind me that she was my Italian grandmother. I always felt honored to be considered such, especially from a woman who was sought all over Italy for women’s conferences, for her counsel, books, articles and translations (including the excellent MacArthur Study Bible, one of its kind) along with her husband. Of course, I get the feeling that she said that to many other children…she was just that kind of woman!
She was also an incredible mother. All of her children serve God in one capacity or another. Her son Steve Standridge was the man that God used to push me to surrender to serve God in full-time service.
Maria Teresa’s legacy was not only in her living, but in her dying. In February she found out that she had a terminal case of leukemia. Most people would have taken a vacation, to enjoy a bit of life before ending it, but not Maria Teresa! Between blood transfusions she managed to finish several books and a tract about dying. She even spoke at an afternoon conference for women that Melodee had the opportunity to attend just weeks ago.
Reflecting on Maria Teresa’s life, death and legacy has helped me to realize, even more with my own health issues, the importance of leaving a right legacy. Someone asked Maria Teresa about her keeping of spiritual diaries. She told them that after writing in them she would throw them away. Yesterday I decided to throw away 20 years worth of journals in the recycle bin. It was hard…but I asked myself…is that what I want to be remembered for? I was ashamed for some of the foolish things I had written.
I thank God for sanctification!! Hopefully I can remember the lessons learned, but I hope to move ahead for God’s glory. Time will tell if I made the right decision to destroy volumes of reminders of my immaturity; but if Maria Teresa could do it and still leave such a rich legacy, I feel good about looking ahead and leaving a better legacy.
What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Do I want to be remembered as a great missionary? Do I want to be remembered as a translator of songs or books (unlikely)? I fear that I am too easily ensnared in the trap of the “pride of life”. 1 John 2:16-17 says:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
What really matters? How do I want my wife and children and church people and supporters and lost friends to remember me?
Here is my conclusion: I want to be remembered as an “Authentic Follower of Jesus Christ.” Simple, no? What more could I possibly want?
What about your legacy? What are your thoughts?