“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime.
And departing, leave behind us,
Footprints on the sands of time.” -Longfellow (I think)

I remember this stanza of poetry on a get well card I received after surgery in 1960, when I was nine years old.

In 1982 my father passed away. At 72, he left a legacy of love, family, and friendships. Today his legacy continues through his children, grandchildren, and on through the fifth generation.

Since our grandson Rylen passed away in March, a cloud of grief has overshadowed me. I sometimes think about what might have been, what he might have accomplished, who he might have married, who his children might become. I know the sadness will pass, as it did after Dad died. Grief has no time limits, but life goes forward. And even with the assurance that he is with God in heaven, we all miss him.

At five years old, what kind of legacy does a person leave? What kind of footprints do you leave on the “sands of time”?

Like his grandfather, Rylen gave a lot of love. He never met a stranger, only friends. He loved his parents and sister, his extended family, and he had lots of friends. His million-dollar smile would light up the room. His sweet “hi” made the day brighter

My heart was touched by the story of a little boy Rylen met in preschool. This little boy went to see Rylen in the hospital. After a specialist explained the situation to him, he donned a gown and mask, went into the PICU room, saw the machines attached to Rylen’s body, laid his hand on Rylen’s for a few minutes, then left. When asked why he wanted to do this, the little boy said, “Because Rylen was my friend.”

Rylen made many friends. He approached life with curiosity. He knew the alphabet. He loved trains and other wheeled vehicles, and electronic devices. He loved music. Time and time again he would return to my piano when he visited. He loved to sing. He loved his sister, and liked to tease her.

These things do not sound unusual for a five-year-old. But Rylen had a physical and mental challenge: hydocephalus. His life expectancy was unknown. Instead of living the expected five minutes after birth, Rylen lived over five years. Caring for him wasn’t always easy, but I know his parents wouldn’t have traded one minute of the five plus years they spent with him.

So this little boy has left behind a legacy of love and friendship. Six people received his body organs: two adults his kidneys, two children his heart valves, and two children his corneas. Through his blog, countless lives have been touched, and through a foundation set up in his name, more will benefit.

Rylen’s physical presence has left us, but he is still with us. His memory is glued in my heart. His legacy continues, not as a great man, but as a wonderful little boy, God’s gift to us for over five years.