Parson to Person: “Legacy: Ed’s, Yours, and Mine,” June 12, 2020

At a time like this, when we think about recent deaths of UCN members (Darlene Lochbihler on May 26th and Ed Friedrichs on May 29th)–I find myself thinking about legacy. An interesting word, legacy.  It comes from the Latin “legare,” meaning to “send an ambassador” or “send a representative.” Even today the word “legate” means someone who can act in your absence, who carries on your mission when you can’t be there. Your legacy, then, is what you leave behind when you can no longer be there–it’s who or what you delegate to carry on the values and principles you believed in.

I once read about a woman who was dying, and leaving behind a 6-year-old son. And she knew she couldn’t be there for him as he was growing up, so she did something very interesting. She wrote a series of letters, one for each of his birthdays until he was 16–just so he could be a little prepared for life, and know that she loved him. She was leaving behind a part of herself, to continue her presence in his life. I believe that what this woman did intentionally, all of us do, whether consciously or not. We all leave behind reminders that we were here. We may not set out to do that (as this woman did), but we all leave markings of a sort–if not letters, then memories…and if not memories, then something more subtle–changes in the world that may or may not have our name stamped on them but are, nonetheless, our legacy.

Ed Friedrich has left just such a legacy, not just to UCN but to his family and the wider community. Professionally, he and his colleagues opened the Clinic of Internal Medicine in Wauwatosa in 1964. He also worked with St. Luke’s, the VA, Milwaukee Behavioral Health, and the Department of Corrections.

Here at UCN, Ed sang in the church choir, served on the board, chaired denominational affairs, and participated in UCN chalice circles.

In the area of social justice, he testified before the state legislature on the importance of treatment instead of prison for offenders, made signs for social-justice protests and rallies, and created a day-long criminal-justice program as part of his constant fight for prison reform.

And his friends and family will remember how he loved watching his children’s sporting events, organizing high-school reunions, playing tennis, taking pictures, and going on road trips to visit relatives and friends.

These things don’t tell the whole story, of course, but they hint at the kind of legacy Ed has left. Ed’s family is having a small graveside ceremony in Lake Geneva (where he grew up) on June 13th.  But we will all gather later in the year to celebrate his life, once conditions permit an in-person gathering. And even now, it is worth thinking about not only Ed’s legacy, but our own. Here at UCN we may have different beliefs about “afterlife.”  But never doubt that, regardless of whatever else may happen after we die, a part of ourselves goes on in the world we leave behind. May you and I live our lives in such a way that the world we leave behind … will be a little better because we were here. That is our legacy. We are grateful for Ed’s. May others be grateful for ours.

peace and unrest,

tony