April 15, 2003

April 15, 2003 | Commentary on Family and Marriage

Heritage for the Future

There I was, sitting in the chair at the salon having my hair trimmed when, suddenly, the tears came. My only warning was the intense burning I felt in the back of my eyes - I knew I would have to fight extra hard to keep the droplets at bay as they began to pool in the darkness of my sockets.

Alas, my best efforts proved futile as first one, then two tiny droplets slipped from underneath my tightly squeezed lids and trickled down my cheeks. Mercifully, only about six made their way onto my face and neck before I got them under control, just as I was beginning to fear being overtaken by a gushing flood.

Today marked the end of a difficult, emotional year. One year ago to this bright, warm spring morning, my father's body was put beneath the chilly, damp sod. Within a span of 12 brief weeks I numbly found myself in that same graveyard as my precious mother's cancer-ridden corpse took its place in the ground beside her beloved husband of 45 years.

As fate would have it, at the precise moment I began to conquer the tears my 11-year-old daughter, Kristin, appeared squarely in front of me to show off her new haircut. Despite my best smile and most enthusiastic expression, this sensitive, beautiful creature looked straight at the slight glimmer on my face. She silently reached out with her delicate finger and softly touched a single tear on my left cheek.

Her lovely, hazel eyes were filled with compassion and concern as I whispered, "I was just thinking about Papa Doc." She nodded, pressed her pouty lips together, and patted my hand. In an instant my sadness was replaced with the warm glow of knowing that although both of my parents are gone, their legacy of love and compassion are alive and well in my own children.

Losing both parents in the same year was devastating. But in my mourning, God, in his wonderful , mystical way provided me with an amazing opportunity to work to preserve the rich heritage my parents spent their lives protecting. Just as their spirits were going to their eternal destiny, my time here on Earth was being redirected by a strong, unseen hand to what I believe is the privilege of a lifetime: I was offered a position at the Heritage Foundation.

"Without a heritage, every generation starts over." At some point during the last months I read that on a Heritage Foundation brochure and I've spent a lot of time reflecting on its virtue. My childhood was marked by the invaluable treasure of having parents that understood America is a land created by men and women who know that freedom is the ultimate prize, capable of bringing untold joy and satisfaction in those who live, breathe and cherish it.

And Mom and Dad made sure we understood this heritage too. They were involved in struggles to hold back unnecessary government intrusion into the lives of ordinary Americans, spoke often of the incredible vision set forth by our Founding Fathers, and gave of their time, their hearts and their pockets to better the lives of others.

My father worked diligently as a learned and respected pediatrician for over 40 years. He was a man of intelligence, and generosity and undying compassion for the suffering. Dad always saw people as human creatures with needs. You could be certain that if Papa Doc was talking with you, he was also looking you over to see if there might be some sign of a malady. He couldn't help it ... he was a physician inside and out, first and foremost.

His inherent sense of civic responsibility made it second nature for him to give up the one afternoon he had off each week to volunteer at a kidney clinic for impoverished children. The same love of people and freedom that caused our nation's Founding Fathers to create a land of equal opportunity for all Americans was the same spirit that caused my father to spend his life to better the lives of everyone he could, using the talents that were uniquely his.

Mom and Dad would be so very proud to know where I am today. Imagine, their daughter, a member of the Heritage Foundation team. Yes, it has been a difficult year. But it has also been an exciting year full of promise, and challenge, and mission. As I work daily with my colleagues at The Heritage Foundation to "build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish," I am constantly aware that through our work we are making a difference in the lives of our own children and for future generations.

Musician Sara Groves, in her song "Generations" expresses what I remind myself of every day at Heritage - and what I know is beating in the hearts of my co-workers, too:

"Remind me of this with every decision,
Generations will reap what I sow.
I can pass on a curse, or a blessing,
To those I will never know."

Mom and Dad, America's heritage lives on, and yours does too.

-Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a research and educational think-tank whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defense. She is also the former vice president of communications for WorldNetDaily and her 60-second radio commentaries can be heard on the Salem Communications Network.

Reprinted with the permission of the internet newspaper WorldNetDaily.com.

About the Author

Rebecca Hagelin Senior Communications Fellow

Related Issues: Family and Marriage