The Greatest Gift a Parent Can Give a Child: Thoughts on Precious Memories


Growing up, our family used to take a vacation every summer. We’d pack up the car and drive out for a week.

There were certain rituals that developed in our vacations.

I don’t know why, but I always loved to stay in the high floors of hotels. I guess I like to look out on the panoramic view. Well, whenever we’d check into a hotel, my dad would check in, and then as the clerk was choosing a room for us he’d announce, “My little son wants to stay on the top floor”. The person at the desk, of course, would smile as my face would get beet red, and give us the top floor. I knew that secretly, dad wanted to stay on the top floor too.

We did a lot of fishing. I think this is where my big brother, now a big ophthalmologist and avid fly fisherman, developed his love for fishing. We’d go out on a boat on Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire, and catch a bunch of sunnies.

We each did different things to preserve our memories. My mom took pictures. A lot of pictures. And her rule was, every single picture had to have a human being in it. Even if it was of a flower or a sign or a landmark, we had to somehow figure out how to get the family in the picture.

My sister wrote copious journals. This was well and good, until we got to our teenage years. Then, I knew she was just writing about how stupid little brother was today.

Me? I collected junk. Hotel shampoo, hotel stationery, free postcards. I’d keep them in a bag and store them away, opening them up every now and then to smell the smell of the hotel room (which, now that I’m old, I know is just cheap deodorizer…but back then, the smell was vacation magic).

We got to see a lot of things over the course of twenty years. My first live baseball game in Minneapolis. The Lamplighter Inn, a quaint little hotel in New Hampsire and Lake Sunapee. We saw Disney World, of course. We Niagara Falls and the CN Tower in Toronto. We visited Dad’s college in Texas, and the church in Chicago where Dad and Mom got married. We took in Luray’s Cavern in Virginia, went fishing in Minneapolis, and ate lobster in New England.

When I look back, though, it’s not what we saw that sits in my heart. It’s not what we did, it’s not the junk I collected, or how beautiful the photos we took were.

It’s the smiles. The laughter. The security of sleeping in the back seat of the car knowing that a loving father had everything under control. The security of hearing the humming of the hotel air conditioner in the middle of the night, knowing that a family filled with love surrounded me.

In other words, family vacations were all about love.

A father and a mother can work all their lives to leave their children an inheritance. Some leave them a lot of money, others real estate, others a business to run. Others push their children to become rich, or highly educated, or successful.

This is all very well and good. But money will be spent, real estate will be sold, and businesses will pass on to others. Wealth and education and success eventually fade away. But what is the only inheritance that will never fade away?

It’s the thing that Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 13:9. It’s the one thing that never ends.

Love.

And God created something very wonderful to package that love in, so that you can carry it with you wherever you go and forever. He created precious memories.

If you’re a parent, or you teach kids in your church, or you’re just a friend to young people, remember one thing. Your duty is to leave a legacy for your kids. But what is the most precious thing you can give them? It’s not knowledge. It’s not a physical inheritance. The most precious thing you can give them are those precious memories. Create them now. Because everything else will pass away, but those memories will follow them for the rest of their lives, and into eternity.

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1.
Precious memories, unseen angels,
Sent from somewhere to my soul;
How they linger, ever near me,
And the sacred past unfold.

Refrain
Precious memories, how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul;
In the still ness of the midnight,
Precous, sacred scenes unfold.

2.
Precious father, loving mother,
Fly across the lonely years;
And old homescenes of my childhood,
In fond memory appears.

Refrain

3.
In the stillness of the midnight,
Echoes from the past I hear;
Old time singing, gladness bringing,
From that lovely land somewhere.

Refrain

4.
As I travel on life’s pathway,
Know not what the years may hold;
As I ponder, hope grows fonder,
Precious memories flood my soul.

Refrain