For a few years now the family has known that Grandma has cancer. When it was discovered the doctors gave her a few months. Although she’s still almost as spirited as ever it’s become obvious this last year that she won’t be with us much longer. It seems as though the extended farewell has given the family a chance to reflect more intentionally on our inheritance. In fact, we’ve decided to gather next summer to do just this. I thought that before we consider our specific inheritance, it would be helpful to try and define this word and understand the experience. What follows is my effort to do just that.

Naked we enter the world, and completely exposed we desperately need a dwelling place. The sheer fact that some of us have survived the labour of childbirth indicates that a dwelling place is available, that it sits in wait of children to swaddle. At birth, we receive a dual gift from God: a beginning and the means to make new beginnings. This dual gift is the condition of life. As St. Augustine writes, “that there be a beginning, man was created before whom there was nobody.”

This dual gift consists of one’s family, tradition, and heritage, the (inherited) components of a newborn’s dwelling place. Inheritance is something which we are given, something which we did not create nor control. Faith is necessary because of this inherited vulnerability. Such faith does not comfort or appease vulnerability but simply makes it more acute. Insofar as life is a gift, faith is unavoidable.

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