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Leaving a Legacy

Recently, my Aunt Kelley died. Outside of my nuclear family, she is the family member I was closest to. She bore the title of my mentor, which I think she actually awarded to herself over 20 years ago, and it stuck! She was so ready to meet Jesus, and though we are devastated and sick with grief, we cling to the knowledge that we will see her again.

In unexpected moments, I see evidence of her in my home. I see the gift she gave us nearly 8 years ago when Tim and I married on display on a shelf. Nestled in the baby doll bed in Harry’s room, I see the soft “Harry bear” she chose for him when he was born. She chose these gifts and explicitly shared that she wanted them to be things by which we would always remember her. She wanted to leave a legacy of her love for us with tangible things that would stand the test of time–and she did.

Death forces a lot of introspection. Today I ponder what legacy am I leaving–whether tangible or intangible. As someone who loves to write and loves greeting cards, I have shared tangible words with those I love many times over the years. But tangible things are really only reminders of a person and the intangible legacy that person has left behind.

What legacy will I leave? In my harshest moments, I think my legacy is a sarcastic, cynical take on the world. But what I want it to be is a woman who loved Jesus, who prioritized her family, and who was transparent about the challenges faced–even the taboo ones like drinking too much and the times when marriage and parenting are really, really hard. (Of course, all of that with a healthy sprinkle of my sarcastic, cynical take on the world…)

My Aunt Kelley left a legacy of telling it to you straight and never being afraid to state the truth, even when it was unpopular or not well-received. She was unabashedly excited to meet the Lord and would tell you all about it. I can’t wait to see her again.

As part of processing my grief, I wrote the following obituary for my mentor. I share it here to give you a little more insight into this incredible woman who shaped every family get together with her laughter, snarky comments, and vocal dismissal of whatever unnecessary drama was developing behind the scenes (as happens in big families!).

Kelley Anne (McDonald) Baltz joined her Savior on November 20, 2022. Kelley was a woman of strong convictions and keen insights, whether related to biblical truth or personal character. Born to Robert and Pat McDonald on March 17, 1956 in West Virginia, Kelley moved to Chesterton with her family as a small girl. She graduated from Chesterton High School in 1974 and worked at Bethlehem Steel before choosing a full-time career caring for her family. She is survived by her husband, Dave; daughter Lindsay and son Griffin (Kara); grandchildren Preston Morris, Olivia Baltz, and David Baltz; sisters Susan (Randy) Smith, Nancy (Bob) Fanning, Mary (Jeff) Deuberry, and Barbara McDonald; and many nieces and nephews. Kelley is now reunited with her dad in Heaven, as he preceded her in death nearly 3 years ago; they shared a special relationship.

Kelley never knew a stranger or had a short phone conversation. She had an easy laugh, loved politics and current events, and would tell it to you straight. She prided truth above all things and often cited John 8:32, “…the truth will set you free.” Her snarky, sarcastic personality will be sorely missed.

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