I just attended my husband’s grandfather’s memorial service. His name was Jack Bishop. He was 90 years old at the time of his passing, so although everyone in attendance was most certainly sad that our time with him on this earth is at its end, there seemed to be a sense of wonder and celebration in the air as he was discussed. It was as though every person who knew him could not wait to share their stories about how he touched their lives. It was the type of service that could only happen for someone who truly lived life well.
Grandpa Bishop captivated me, even though I only knew him in his elder years. I was always so delighted by him that I could probably have delivered a eulogy for him myself (I can just hear it- “and now, Jack’s grandson’s wife has a few words to say”). But my appreciation for him, though great, clearly pales in comparison to that of his 4 children, his 12 grandchildren, his former employees, and his closest friends.
I wish you all could have heard the way they spoke of him. It was evident (as it always has been) that Jack Bishop was not simply well liked and respected (or even loved), but instead he was ADORED and CHERISHED. People longed to be with him. People felt wonderful around him. Those closest to him praised him most.
It was truly inspiring. The following words were uttered with regularity throughout every discussion:
“patriarch” “man of God” “integrity” “spiritual” “honesty” “listener” “loving husband” “dapper” (he was an excellent dresser) “courageous” “trusting” “generous” “faithful” “encourager” “caring” “steward” “great character”
But what I kept hearing the most was:
“he left a legacy…”
The word legacy means something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor from the past.” Basically, Jack Bishop lived life so well that he actually inspires people to be more like that above list of adjectives. His kids and grandkids want to emulate him, he is looked up to by countless others, and he inspires people even in his absence.
How did he do it? Although most of you did not have the opportunity to know Jack Bishop, I wanted to share some simple observations about his life and why I think the word “legacy” was said about him more than anything else. Perhaps it will challenge you to follow suit.
(FYI: I could never do this man’s legacy justice in five points, but I fear that the blog title “Fifty Ways to Leave a Legacy” would be poorly received.)
HOW TO LEAVE A LEGACY…
1) Put Your Faith First. Know Your Purpose– Grandpa Bishop loved Jesus with every fiber of his being. He talked about His relationship with God to people, he oriented his life around and followed the teachings of Scripture, he prayed consistently, and he served in the church constantly. God was his top priority and there was no question about it. He knew his place…a sinner saved through Christ. His faith is most definitely the foundation of his legacy.
2) Take Risks– Jack started his own copier business (Bishop Business Equipment, which still operates in Omaha and Lincoln) even though he could have remained at a “safe” job that provided a sense of security. It can be so hard to take risks in our lives, so we stick with a status quo where we are not thriving. Jack created an extremely successful enterprise because he was willing to jump into uncertainty, and because of his business he was able to impact countless lives with employment, service, and generosity.
3) Do Not Let Misfortune Get the Better of You– Jack’s father left his family when he was 12 years old. Many people in this position would hold onto anger and bitterness about such abandonment for their entire lives. Not Grandpa Bishop. He did not let his childhood define him. Instead he became everything his father was not, the most loyal and loving father a kid could dream of. The patriarch of a truly remarkable family. Jack is proof positive that you can change your family tree. He raised 4 kids solid in their faith who put family first, and every single one of his 12 grandkids and their spouses are professed Christians. That is no coincidence.
The Bishop Family after Grandpa’s memorial. 4 children, 12 grandchildren (11 of them grandsons!!), 10 great grandchildren, 2 more on the way, and all their spouses (including me, on the bottom row holding the baby with a big fountain ponytail). Photo credit: Jodi Hauptman-Drannen
4) Be Intentional With Your Family– Long hours are a part of owning and running a business, but it was clear that despite his hard work Grandpa Bishop make his family feel like the priority. Jack took his kids and grandkids on vacations, he read Scriptures around the table, he sang hymns before dinner (even at a restaurant, much to the chagrin of his grandkids at times), he was the mastermind of an elaborate Christmas decathlon complete with engraved plaque, he took his children boating every summer Saturday afternoon, he asked questions and made you go around in a circle to answer, he did morning devotions, and of course the list could go on and on. He did not just hope that his family would have quality time together, but he was intentional and active about making it happen.
Jack and Jean Bishop at their wedding. No discussion about Jack would ever be complete without mentioning his amazing wife, who passed away in January 2012. She is entwined in his legacy in every way.
5) Put Others Ahead of Yourself– When you spent time with Grandpa Bishop, you felt like his priority. I felt this way, and I heard person after person share that Jack truly listened to them, encouraged them, and went out of his way to show his appreciation and care. He took positions at church that required a great deal of time and energy and he gave generously to his family, church, and ministries. He made people feel valuable, because that was how he viewed them. Jean was exactly the same way, and as a couple they constantly welcomed people into their home and their church.
What I realized this week is that leaving behind a positive and inspiring legacy isn’t something that just randomly happens. It is the result of prioritizing, contemplation, and intentionality. In Grandpa Bishop’s case, I believe it was also the result of prayer, humility, and faith. We must know what we value most and live lives that point that direction. I am gonna take a page from Grandpa’s book (or hymnal) and think about what I will one day leave behind.
Jack Bishop is a man worth copying, and we don’t need to call Bishop Business Equipment to do it.
(and i am now pleased to accept the award for cheesiest closing pun EVER)
Grandpa…top middle. Hair worth sharing.