(Rex is the son of Clay and Letha Finley and the grandson of Daniel Washington Finley)
My Grandma turned 90 on Sunday (March 9th 2014). She is a great woman and married to a great man. I wrote the following as a tribute to them a couple of months ago but haven’t done anything with it. It is a bit lengthy but I hope worth the read.
What’s in a name? Today names don’t mean as much as they once did. In other cultures through out history a name said a lot about who you were, where you were from and even what you did for a living. A name defined a person in a way.
Today we don’t put as much into the thought of a name. Of course there are those whose names bring about different thoughts, pictures and ideas because of their notoriety in certain areas of expertise. If I say the name Manning many people may think of football or if I say Jackson people might think of pop music, or the name Reagan might bring to mind on era of politics.
If I said the name Finley it probably would mean very little to you if anything. It is not a name that is known by many. There have been a few famous people with the name but none of them or their accomplishments come to my mind when I think of the name. The name means much more to me. It is a name I am proud and sometimes even humbled to bare. It is a name that holds a standard for me, a name that stands for something. Not because of any famous man or woman. Not because it will go down in any history books but it is a name with a deep legacy.
Legacy, that’s another word that isn’t really used all that much these days. We live in a world that is more concerned with fame than legacy. But I happen to believe it is of great importance. Proverbs 22:1 says
1 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1
We talk a lot about inheritance. People work hard and save to leave their children an inheritance but what if we were more focused on leaving our family a legacy than we were with leaving them an inheritance. What if we took this proverb seriously and made a name for ourselves that our children would be proud to have. A name that our children knew meant something. Not a name that will get them special privileges but a name that they desired to live up to.
Leaving a legacy is about making your name mean something. It’s about making an impact on generations. My son and I sometimes use the statement “You’re a Finley.” It is usually in a half joking manner but it is meant to convey certain values such as “Don’t give up” “Stop whining” “Don’t take yourself too seriously” or “Give it your best”. No one has ever written these statements down or created any kind of coat of arms but they are character traits that our family knows that this is part of what it means to carry this name. I wish I could take credit for it. I do like to think that I have done my part to uphold it. However the truth is that the Legacy belongs to my grandparents, Rex and Irene Finley.
Rex and Irene have been married for over 70 year and have had 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren. But they will not be most remembered because they stuck to their vows and populated the earth. Rex was a postal carrier for 35 years and Irene was a homemaker and had her own real estate office. Both were successful in their perspective carreers but they won’t be most remembered for their business life. Rex served in WWII and is an excellent ball player, he collects records, loves music and enjoys repairing watches and clocks. Irene is an excellent cook, hostess and friend. She plays cards, enjoys reading and keeping her house but they won’t be remembered for their hobbies and interests or a specific period of their lives. They have both always been active in their church, but even this will only play a small piece in what they are truly remembered by. All of these things are good. All of these things make up the pieces of who they are and what they will be remembered for but this is what I believe makes the difference between those who leave us with a few fond memories and those that leave a legacy. Those that leave a legacy understand that it is not all that you accomplish that makes you, but how it is that you accomplish it. It is not that you have a family but it is how you raise that family. It’s not what you are but who you are that you will be remembered by.
Rex and Irene have both done many things that they can and should be proud of, but to me none of those things are as important as who they were while doing them. That is what stands out to me. That is what I, and I know many others will remember most. That is their legacy.
In a world where we are taught that pleasure is king and if it feels right it must be, Rex and Irene have lived a life contrary to this thinking. They lived and taught a family to live out their lives as though their word matters. That you do what you say you’re going to do. That no one should ever wonder if you are telling the truth because if you’re honest no one will have a reason to doubt you. I never heard my grandparents have to say “I swear”. Honestly, I don’t even remember hearing them say “I promise” they didn’t have to because if they said it you trusted they meant it and it would happen.
My grandparents taught that whining will get you nowhere and that part of being an adult means you don’t blame others for your problems. You own your choices and you make the best of it. Others will always have more money than you, be better than you and, have opportunities that you don’t. So what, life isn’t fair. It’s up to each of us to make the best with what we have and to be thankful for it. This world doesn’t owe you a thing and when you start to think it does that’s when you start losing, because you will never take responsibility for your life and you will always be at the mercy of others actions.
They taught us to expect set backs. That when you decide to do something you give it your all and you work hard at it knowing that there will be road blocks and obstacles. But that shouldn’t stop you. If you wait for life to be fair you’ll be waiting a long time. Instead you do your best, when you fail you pick yourself up and you try again. Enjoy the times that are good but don’t let the hard times get you down.
Most importantly, they taught me that life is not about me. I am not the center of the universe. They encouraged me to seek a relationship with God and to serve others. Once again this wasn’t done so much in any formal conversations or teaching but rather in their lifestyle. They are two of the most selfless people I know. Always willing to help others or to assist where they can. Many of our family get togethers included someone they knew who didn’t have family so they would reach out to them and include them. Our family has always been close and one of the reasons is because we all know the sacrifices grandma and grandpa made for us. We also know that they love us no matter what, they might not always agree with us, they might not like some of our choices, no matter how stupid our choices, no matter how badly we mess up. We all know that Grandma and Grandpa love us. They never withhold forgiveness.
These are just a few of the many things I learned from my grandparents. I could go on and on. I was blessed to be raised by them. I guess we all have heroes. People that we look up to and aspire to follow or be like. It is just a blessing that mine are ones that I was able to watch every day.
So what’s in a name? I guess it depends on what we seek to leave behind. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for making your legacy a priority. For teaching me some things that are hard to find in our culture. Thank you for making choices every day to make a good name for yourself. Finley may not be a name that the masses will remember but it is a name that has meant something to the many people that have known you. I only hope and pray that I can continue to pass some of this legacy on to the generations that follow me.