AND WHAT WILL BE YOUR EPITAPH?
|By Frank Kaiser|
My late aunt and uncle had one of the most rip-roaring arguments of their marriage over what to say on their tombstone. After 60 years of marital bliss, attempting to agree on an epitaphal eulogy almost did them in.
She wanted simple: their names, the dates, and nothing more. He wanted praise, an embellished testament of their lives especially his in perpetuity.
As he died first, she prevailed. Their big mistake had been in waiting to make this monumental decision at the dusk of their lives.
Now is the time to start thinking about your epitaph. It's never too early.
As you know, life after 50 is patch, patch, patch.
What if you died yesterday? Your stone might well read: "Here lies Betty. We'd say more, but she wasn't ready."
Folks spend more thought picking out their screensaver than they do their epitaph. This is a mistake. It can even lead to tombstone typos like: "Gone to be an angle" or "Rest in piece."
Such bloopers are forever.
An epitaph is a public declaration, the last and probably longest-lasting expression of your life.
What do we remember about W.C. Fields, for example? That he was the most successful juggler of his generation? That he was the first movie star important enough to have his name billed above the producer's? No. We remember his epitaph, "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."
So what can you say about yourself that's profound enough for eternity?
According to Boswell, Dr. Johnson believed "allowance must be made for some degree of exaggerated praise. In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon his oath."
Maybe my Uncle Charlie was right after all.
One thing is certain, terseness is essential. In 200 years, how many will choose to read these faded words on stone?
"Here lies a poor woman who was always tired;
Nice sentiment, but geez, it's way too long. Better, this:
"Five times five years I lived a virgin's life
Speaking of virgins, I always liked this one:
"Here lies all that remains of Charlotte,
And this: "She sleeps alone. At last."
So how do you begin to compose your life in a few short and pithy phrases?
If you're a professional person, you might begin with your occupation. An Arkansas doctor's epitaph read: "Office upstairs."
Attorney John Strange had this to say about himself: "Here lies an honest lawyer. That is Strange."
A dentist, this: "Filling his last cavity."
Perhaps religion, or the lack of, is uppermost in your mind. Short and to the point are, "Oh reader, be prepared" and "The Lord don't make no mistakes." More fun, perhaps, is this from Thurmont, Maryland:
"Here lies an Atheist
Whatever, don't procrastinate. Even if you live to be a centenarian, here, from Nova Scotia, is what happens if you don't prepare an epitaph for yourself:
For me, I always liked the brevity and wit of Dorothy Parker, whose epitaph reads, "Excuse my dust." But I plan to dodge the bullet with cremation.
I never did like writing deadlines.
Suddenly Trivia Question: One of the strangest funeral customs still practiced in the world is a) sending the deceased to sea in a tall ship, b) filling the body with knickknacks, c) mourners laughing all the way to the burial ground, d) eating the body.
Suddenly Trivia Answer: d) Herodotus wrote that the Calatians ate their own dead. Queen Artemisia supposedly mixed the ashes of her beloved with wine and drank it. Talk about body! To this day, certain African tribes are known to grind the bones of their dead and mingle them with their food.
Copyright © 2008 Frank Kaiser
For others in this series, "The Real Truth About Getting Old," go to http://www.suddenlysenior.com/healthissues.html
Want to comment on this week's Suddenly Senior column? Click here!
READERS RESPOND WITH THEIR OWN FAVORITE EPITAPHS...
"Across Frank Kaiser's cap
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
"The manner of his death was thus:
"I'll be right back!" What Johnny Carson said would be his epitaph.
"Look down here as you pass by,
"Here lies Lester Moore
"Here lies the body of Jonathan Moore
"I told you I was sick!" From the Key West cemetery.
PLEASE SUPPORT OUR SUDDENLY SENIOR SPONSOR
AND HELP KEEP THE COLUMNS COMING TO YOU
GET UP-TO-THE-MINUTE NEWS EVERY DAY ABOUT MEDICARE, SOCIAL SECURITY AND OTHER IMPORTANT SENIOR NEWS. SIMPLY SEND A BLANK E-MAIL TO GET-RXNEWS@SUDDENLYSENIOR.COM.
Now read by 3.1 million seniors at Websites and 79 newspapers from the St. Petersburg Times to the Mumbai India News.
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE HELPFUL LINKS BELOW
NEW THIS WEEK AT SUDDENLY SENIOR
HOW TO TALK ABOUT SEX
Ageless sexuality advocate Joan Price, hears from people having sexual problems with their partner. They may want more, less, or a different kind of quality of sex. Although sexual difficulties won't magically go away by talking about them, effective communication is a big first step. Read how HERE
10 LIFESTYLE DISCIPLINES FOR A BETTER YOU
Tom Braun, Rph., in his popular series, “Confessions of a Drug Pusher,” explores how improving your health through lifestyle changes takes dedication and understanding of what is really impacting your well being. Read the 10 steps HERE
A LIVING WILL IS A GOOD THING, BUT WITH A CATCH!
No matter what your lawyer tells you, it is worthless if the person whose life is about to be extended against their wishes is not passing in an orderly and pre-determined way. An ambulance trip to the emergency room and you can kiss that Will's value goodbye." Read more HERE