Old Moon

Friday, July 17, 2009

Where Should an Epitaph Be Found?

At the risk of more self-exposure than most people will be interested in, I offer the following musing in the hope that it might make some readers consider the subject in relation to personal experience--not just of loss, but also of gratitude for the living.

Does anyone give much thought to epitaphs, other than those noted for their humor or irony? The definition does not apply solely to words on a tombstone; it includes other written memorials. However, it occurred to me the other day that these reminders may be falling out of fashion, in part because of the decline in traditional burials. Cremation so often concludes with a scattering of ashes rather than the interment of them. The reasons for choosing this means of putting a period at the end of a life are too valid for argument in my view, yet I find myself wishing for something left behind, even if nothing corporeal remains.

I've been trying to think of something suitable for my life's companion that might at least suggest to someone who didn't know him what kind of man he was, without running to many paragraphs or to wording that would strike a stranger as fulsome.

From the first day I met him, I was aware that this was true without appreciating it properly for many months. By the time he was gone, I had become so accustomed to his selflessness and his sense of duty, they became a given in my life, which was so embedded with his that his absence leaves me feeling most of the time as though I see a stranger in the mirror and am surprised that I don't look emaciated.

Anecdotes that illustrate this characteristic would fill a notebook. If I could find the right place to put these words, I might hope that his children and their children would use them as a reminder, and even as a source of inspiration.



Shellie Tomlinson said...

Sweet! I enjoyed my visit to your place. On the subject of epitaphs, several years ago my Southern Mama had tombstones made in advance for herself and my dad. She put a LOT of thought into this. I could digress, but I'll bore you. Let me just say that she suggested, "He loved a good woman" for my fathers! We talked her out of it. Take care...

Pat Workman said...

To be scattered or to leave a some mark of our brief existence. Something I have pondered for years. When my husband died, 9 years ago, he wanted his ashes to fertilize trees and plants. Not unusual as he was a botany and forestry major in college. Our three sons and I choose a trout stream deep in the national forest that he had fished when we first met and married. No pomp or fuss, just immediate family. He was an only child, selfless was never a concept in his realm. His fundamentalist mother was still living in southern Ohio. She needed and wanted a memorial service and a marker placed beside her and his father's tombstone—this we did for her, her church and family. He made me promise that I would not bury or scatter any part of him near them, come what may—this we did for him.

My epitaph for him would be something akin to:
He was a MAN—loved & honored as best we dared.

That said, as a genealogist, I am often dependent upon (and thankful for) grave markers in my research. Sometimes, for those long gone, they are the only reliable source of one's entrance and exit on this planet. For my exit, stage left, I would wish for a jolly raucous party to be thrown with song & dance, food & drink, laughter at stories of my escapades & 'many' fox paus all to be capped off with a joyful tossing of my ashes on the TVA land below my home.
My epitaph:
By Gory!! She did it her way.