Funerals are awkward things. At a time when people are most attuned to the hard realities of truth, we often sigh as speaker after speaker tries desperately to make a halo fit around the horns of the dearly deceased. I’ve often thought, therefore, what it would be like if someone could invent a tombstone that gave an honest epitaph. You know, the real one.
Such an innovation—alas a mere invention of my fancy—would be at once enlightening and painful. Instead of “Loving Husband and Father,” it might say “Self-Indulgent Husband and Father.” Or instead of “He Loved Life,” it might say “He Never Had the Guts to Grow Up.”
Stark, to be sure.
So stark, in fact, as to be judged indiscreet, crass. Perhaps appropriately so. Still, it stirs the imagination to think what amusement it would be to peruse a cemetery filled with such honest epitaphery.
But the amused smirk is not likely to survive long as I turn the camera to you. What would your honest epitaph be?
As I scan the audience here—you—I see young men and women in the strength of their youth, young adults pursuing their dreams, middle-aged people who have settled in for the long haul, and a smattering of the elderly, wizened by the years, ever more familiar with the decorum of the funeral home. And I wonder. If your self-deception were washed away by the cold objectivity of chiselled stone, what words would summarise your life honestly?
“He loved his Xbox”
“She wanted to get married”
“They loved to travel”
“She took the easy road”
“He was enslaved to the erotic”
“She was a know-it-all”
“He criticised everything”
Ghastly. Disturbing. And what’s worse is that suspicion in the back of your mind right now, as you’re reading this, of what your honest epitaph might be.
A wise man once said “You’re not ready to live until you know what you want written on your tombstone.”
What do you want on yours? Have you thought about it? I won’t tell you what I want on mine, but I know. And I pray that when the day comes, whoever fills out the forms will be able to honestly give me the epitaph I want.
Morbid? Morose? Macabre? I suppose it is. But you might as well think about it now because when the time comes, it will be set in stone. If you want to embody a noble epitaph, you’ll need to do it today. By tomorrow, someone may be filling out those forms…
Grace to you.