I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately.
The obituary page is one of the first I check each day. If I’m not in there, I figure it’s going to be a good day.
Oh, don’t laugh. You think you’re above it? Ain’t none of us getting out of this life alive, and there are lots of folks out there always ready to remind you and me and everyone else of just that fact. So many of them speak in euphemisms, like the life insurance salespeople: “Don’t you want to know your family is protected in case something should happen to you?” What do they mean, “in case?” Or, “something should happen?” It’s gonna happen, and that “something” is death. Death! Not a sprained ankle or a hangnail, but death! How about the folks who work at funeral homes and cemeteries: “And what would we like mother to wear?” Huh? This isn’t the prom! She’s not going to the Ocean House for dinner! She died, and you just want her to look respectful in her coffin, not be the star of a cotillion. And if you’re not dead yet, some of those pre-need salespeople at funeral homes can really lay it on. While pre-planning is at its very essence a smart, practical idea so as not to burden your family at a stressful time and a way to deliver what YOU want when that time comes, there are still some slick cats in the industry who are masters at the rebuttal. “I really wasn’t planning on doing anything quite yet,” you say. “I want to think it over. I’m not sure exactly what I want.” Without missing a beat, they come back with, “Ah, that’s why we have our ‘eternity gift certificate.’ They make wonderful holiday gifts or birthday gifts for the person who has everything.” Then they gild the lily with, “And this plot overlooks our beautiful lake, what a view!” What view? I’m dead!
Then there’s your epitaph. You really ought to give that some serious thought...or maybe not-so-serious thought because when your loved ones come to “visit,” these words carefully etched on your stone are what you want people to remember and what will remain for eternity long after your “visitors” are visiting you in the afterlife. Stroll through any cemetery anywhere, and you’ll find much of the same:
“Beloved Wife, Mother, Grandmother.”
“Cherished Husband, Father, Grandpa.”
Usually this is accompanied by the dates of birth and death or perhaps a cross or Star of David or a little saying, but it’s these actual epitaphs I found and present to you that I really enjoy and wish to pass on. Most are of famous people, but not all:
“Cursed be he that moves my bones.”
“Quote the raven, nevermore!”
— Edgar Allan Poe
“T-T-T-That’s all folks!”
— Mel Blanc, voice of Porky Pig
and 1,000 others
“Okay, I gotta go now.”
— Dee Dee Ramone
“The best is yet to come”
— Frank Sinatra
And the not-so-famous:
“Here lies an atheist. All dressed up, no place to go.”
“I raised 4 daughters with only 1 bathroom.”
“I was hoping for a pyramid.”
“I finally found a place to park.”
— Ludolph von Ceulen who calculated pi to 35 decimal places
Perhaps my favorite:
“There goes the neighborhood!”
— Rodney Dangerfield who never
got “no respect”
I also found a gravestone in a Utah cemetery with the recipe for Kay’s Famous Fudge inscribed in granite plus others with everything from spritz cookies to cheese spread. A veritable cookbook of death!
Well, all this gives me pause, and it should you as well. You’re going to die, but barring a major earthquake in the middle of River Bend or wherever the family lays you to rest, your stone with that epitaph will be there for a long, long time. So, is your very essence that you were Nonna to Meagan and Ryan? That you were a great dry wall guy and lucky at the casino? Or that you used real butter and not oleo in your baked goods? Hey, in the 22nd century and beyond this could be the stuff of the ages, because now you’re history!
That all brings it back to me. I’m sure I’ll think of exactly the right thing once I’m gone, so for now, rather than platitudes and recipes, I leave you with:
RONA MANN: “Hope she gave you your words worth.”
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 21 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.
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