Plan your epitaph

Rick Watson
Posted 11/20/16

When one thinks of November holidays, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and the beginning of Advent are the ones that come to mind. But the month has some obscure holidays too. Men Make Dinner Day, Deviled Egg Day, and Square Dance Day are some that …

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Plan your epitaph

Posted

When one thinks of November holidays, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and the beginning of Advent are the ones that come to mind. But the month has some obscure holidays too. Men Make Dinner Day, Deviled Egg Day, and Square Dance Day are some that jumped out at me.

Dunce Day fell on Nov. 8 this year (I kid you not.) There were other wacky holidays that never got off the ground, but one caused me to pause and reflect — Plan Your Epitaph Day.

Pushing back from my office desk, I walked outside and fell into a deck chair in the blinding afternoon sun. Sitting there, I started thinking about my life. An epitaph to me is a life motto. Words written in stone are things that give the generations that follow a glimpse into who you were, what you believed, and what you lived for.

An Internet search revealed that not everyone took a serious approach. Rodney Dangerfield’s tombstone reads, “There goes the neighborhood.” B.P. Roberts’ marker reads, “I Told You I Was Sick.” One that caused me to laugh so hard that I snorted was, “This Sucks.” But others were poignant and some thought provoking. “Anything but Ordinary,” is an incredible tribute and great advice for those who follow.

Kris Kristofferson who is a notable songwriter once said that he wanted his epitaph to be the opening lines to Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.”

Like a bird on the wire

Like a drunk in a midnight choir

I have tried in my way to be free

Reading this was particularly sad because Leonard Cohen, a prominent Canadian poet and songwriter, died this past week.

I heard about one professor who assigned a paper to his creative writing class entitled, “Write Your Epitaphs.” A topic this profound would be hard at any age, but I think it would be much harder for young folks. If they were like me at 19, I thought I would live forever. It wasn’t until my hair disappeared down the shower drain and my knees began squeaking like rusty hinges each time I stood that mortality came into sharper focus.

I thought of several funny epitaphs that would work, but upon reflection, I was unsure if that is what I wanted to leave behind. I love a good laugh as much as the next guy, but it’s not what I am about, or who I am.

After I’m gone, my possessions will filter down to loved ones, then to their loved ones, and so on. In hundred years, the house I helped build, the truck I drove, the clothes I wore will probably be gone. The jewelry I wore on my arms and fingers will be trinkets passed down, and they will probably lose their story somewhere along the way.

In the distant future, most people would not recognize me in a photograph unless a mindful descendent scribbled my name on the back. But the words inscribed on a gravestone should survive.

It’s my opportunity to leave something behind that will give an idea of what I stood for and who I became in my lifetime.

I can promise you this — I will give this some serious thought.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Goes On is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@homefolkmedia.com.