Leaving A Legacy

A neighbor passed away this week after a long battle against cancer. It is never easy to hear about someone’s life being taken from them at middle age or of their struggle with a terminal illness.

When I got the call from another neighbor, I was shocked, but not totally surprised. I wept, prayed and offered condolences and help. Today as I drove by his house for the first time since hearing the news, I was overcome with the memories of what this man gave to our neighborhood and our community.

Holiday lights 1

His name was David Parkinson and he was well known in Sammamish and beyond for his display of Christmas lights. Over the past 15 years Dave put up a massive display of lights that grew to 60,000 bulbs, assorted blow-up characters and wire displays. In recent years, Dave got the attention of the media and was listed in newspaper and television station reviews as an address to view his display of lights. After that happened, it wasn’t unusual for the cul-de-sac to get backed up with cars slowly driving by. Waiting behind a string of cars to pull into my own driveway was only a minor inconvenience. It was offset by the evenings I would sit in my living room and watch the cars go by. It was a reminder that these families were taking time out of their busy holiday schedules to enjoy some of the wonder of Christmas.

Holiday lights 02

Dave’s mission and passion was clear and simple–to create a special display of lights for people to enjoy. In order to achieve that goal in time for December viewing, he would start putting up lights on Labor Day weekend. He was very consistent and deliberate with his planning and creativity. Before he got sick, his family would host a neighborhood lighting party every year. It was always the highlight of the holiday season. And then there were the nights that I caught Dave outside monitoring the lights, doing some repairs or talking with the passersby.

Holiday Lights 03

Dave delighted in the lights. He delighted in giving this back to the community. But Dave didn’t just give us this talented display of lights. He also gave back to the community by putting up a drop-off container for food donations to Northwest Harvest. It was like his own mini-food drive.

Holiday lights 04

December is nearing and the lights were barely started this year. Now that he is gone will there be any lights? Will the family or community rally around to finish his work? I wonder what Dave would want.

So with the sorrow in my heart over Dave’s passing, I can’t help but also think about the legacy he has left. He has left a legacy of sparkling lights and holiday cheer. He gave a gift that lifted up our holiday spirits and reminded us to slow down and enjoy the season. My scrapbooks are filled with photos of his holiday lights over the years as a momento of this holiday tradition.

Thank you Dave for sharing your vision with us and leaving a legacy of lights that we will never forget.

Holiday Lights 00002

For a few brief minutes, Dave’s passing made me think about the legacy I am leaving. What do I want to be remembered for? Am I living in God’s will? Thankfully the answer is that probably for the first time in my life, I really believe that I am being missional and on purpose with the legacy that God has ordained for me.

Are there things that I could change in my life? Of course. Am I content in all things? Probably not as much as I should be. But if God took me tomorrow, I wouldn’t have any regrets about where I invested my time and my talents. It certainly hasn’t always been that way, but thankfully, God has been giving me a legacy worth leaving.

Dave's family did honor him with a light display in 2011 and beyond.

Dave’s family did honor him with a light display in 2011 and beyond.

UPDATE January 2022: Ten years later Lisa still honors her husband’s memory with the annual holiday light display. How fitting that her/his display won this year’s Sammamish Independent’s competition. (Lisa Parkinson puts up holiday lights to keep husband’s memory alive.) Congratulations Lisa and thank you for continuing Dave’s legacy!

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

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