I know that being the only son of the only son is little more than a peculiarity of the culture I live in. Grandma and Grandpa Reilly had six kids–but only one boy. In our culture, that means the name of the family rests with that boy. That boy happened to be my father. And I have but one sister and no brothers. The weight of the name now rests on my shoulders. On my wedding day, my aunts joked all night with my new bride about how it was up to us to carry on the family name.
Although that is technically true, it is not the name that carries the legacy. In reality, their six kids, 15 grandkids, and numerous great-grandkids are their legacy. We all hold a torch lit by the love and beauty of my grandparents relationship. They were married for 64 years. They taught us what it meant to love, to be a hard worker, and how to be a compassionate member of humanity. They built a legacy upon their marriage.
I picked August 15th as my wedding day to honor and grandparents (my parents had done the same, if by chance, some 30 years prior). I won’t lie that I held some level of hope that the date came with some level of luck or willpower. But after two and half years of marriage, I already know the truth. The date meant nothing. What matters is that I was raised to treat my spouse as a partner. Someone to take on the world together. I learned that from my parents. And my dad learned that from his parents. Love creates the ultimate partnership.
I cannot honor my grandparents by stealing their wedding day or carrying on the family name. No. I honor them by talking with my wife about the future, being an active member in making our community a better place, and working hard for the things that matter. I honor them by remembering what they created…and left behind.
My grandmother died December 7, 2017
My grandfather died January 7, 2018.
One month. It doesn’t surprise me that it only took a month for my grandfather to decide it was his time. If his marriage was anything like my budding marriage, there would be little left without the other present. Especially after 64 years.
And now our family carries on.
The family name may live or die in time.
The importance of August 15th may live or die in time.
But we will carry on their legacy in the families we create in their image.