As I sit in the Phoenix airport waiting for the final leg of our trip back to Orange County my mind and heart is full of thoughts and emotions.  I have heard the word “legacy” mentioned more times in the past week than I have in the past 10 years.  It has been tattooed on my heart.

Ten days ago my family and Bracken’s Kitchen was overflowing with excitement and anticipation for the upcoming holidays for so many reasons.  We just love Thanksgiving and the spirit of the holidays.

  • Betsy & I were gearing up to feed lots and lots of turkey to a lot of hungry people throughout November.
  • We were working to finalize our culinary training program for at risk youth and former foster children.
  • We were scheduled for a live appearance on the “Hour of Power” program this past Sunday.
  • And we have been selected to be featured in a video series titled “Unsung Heroes” and so much more.

Personally, we were excited about a short trip home to Kansas in support of my mother during her scheduled surgery last Thursday.  We made it safely to Kansas and enjoyed a wonderful dinner last Wednesday night with my parents at one of my mother’s favorite restaurants.  As we waited for our food to be served my mother said to my 7 year old, Luke, “I could just sit and stare at you all night long.”  As we drove back home later that night we stopped at the Dairy Barn, a local icon for more than 40 years.  It was my mother’s last snack before she started her fast in preparation for her surgery the next morning.

My mom and dad sat with my wife Molly, Luke and I and enjoyed her favorite treat, a “Tiny Tot” Ice Cream Sundae.   Confession: the Tiny Tot sundae at the Dairy Barn is as big as most large Sundaes anyplace else.


Little did we know that evening would be the last time we would ever get to sit and eat with my mother.  Unfortunately, she passed away unexpectedly during surgery.

As I pondered this blog I have struggled with sharing this very painful moment in my life, but what I have come to learn and understand over the past 7 days is so powerful and meaningful to me that I wanted to share.

What is your legacy?

I have always known that I was blessed to be born into the family that I was, but never understood how blessed until this last week.  Sure, we had our share of problems and dysfunction . . . don’t we all?  But we also had love and servants’ hearts, something I didn’t quite understand until now.

At my mother’s visitation, the evening before her funeral, there was a line of people out the door for over 2 hours straight.  I knew my mother was loved but just didn’t know how much.  Story after story after story was shared with all of us.

One of my best childhood friends shared a memory with me. He shared his memories of sleeping over at my house when we were young.  What always stood out to him was how my parents sat on the couch next to each other watching TV with their arms around each other.  Mind you this was after 20 years of marriage.  This stuck with me and as I looked through pictures and old photo albums that were being passed around I noticed something I never understood, just how much my parents loved each other.

I heard stories that I have never heard before.  Stories of my oldest sister and mother sitting in the car on a rainy day while my dad and grandmother buried my mother’s stillborn son, the older brother that I never had.  Stories of my older sisters getting splinters in their hands and knees crawling across the floor of the first house my parents lived in.  With no money, they lived in a house that many today wouldn’t let their pets sleep in.  They didn’t have much back then but more than anything else they had love and their faith in God.

It saddens me to think of the years that I focused on our family problems instead of appreciating the love they shared.  They were indeed the love of each other’s lives.

I also learned so much about the giving or servants heart that my mother and so many of my family members shared.  It speaks to why my mother was loved by so many.  While I always knew my grandmother Bracken had a heart of gold and raised a humble and caring family, I now understand more about my mother’s side of the family.  I heard stories about how my Grandmother Poirier would scold anyone who got into a certain pie or box of cookies.  The ones she made to share with the hobos who rode the train through town.  Who knew that my family was feeding the poor and hungry long before I started Bracken’s Kitchen?  In helping to write my mother’s obituary I was reminded of just how many clubs and organizations she was a part of. Yes, some of them were social clubs but whether social or not, they all had a mission to help, support, care for and give back to those in need.

As I look back at all I experienced over the past week I am in awe of the legacy that my parents have built.  They don’t leave behind a big trust fund or hotels with their names on them, no large estates or companies to manage.  What they leave behind is so much more than any of that.

My mother leaves behind a husband who loved and supported her for almost 60 years, 4 children, 9 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.   Even more than that she leaves behind countless people whose lives she has impacted through the loving and caring heart that she had.

She also has left behind Bracken’s Kitchen, something that her loving, caring and giving heart helped to inspire.  She leaves behind a son with a team of people who genuinely care and will continue to commit themselves and their own legacy to making a difference in the world.

What will you leave behind?


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