“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”
~ Mark Twain
Life is short. Love is vast. Time is now.
Whoever you are, wherever you’re at, whatever they’re trying to sell you, there are two things you should be certain of: you were born at some point and you are going to die at another.
There is no escape. No remedy to this human issue.
And perhaps, if we wrote this simple, heartbreaking, yet liberating notion, in permanent marker on our bathroom mirror; perhaps by being reminded and aware of our mortality, with new eyes, each morning, we’d make a better use of our perceived immortality.
Maybe due to a strong awareness of death—and, like most of our tired and depressed XXI century life-travelers, maybe a small unspoken fascination with lifeless mystery—I find an irresistible blend of romance and nostalgia in walking through old, historical cemeteries on cloudy days, and reading the tombstones…taking mental pictures and heart notes.
They say that in order to find out about a city—in order to really find out—don’t go to its museums and monuments, go to its cemeteries.
Because, as Steve Jobs so intensely reminded us:
“… almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
So I’ve collected a few of my favorite epitaphs—some clever, others inspiring—for you (for me).
To help us remember their past and our present.
A tomb now suffices him for whom the world was not enough. ~ Alexander the Great
The best is yet to come. ~ Frank Sinatra
I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. ~ Winston Churchill
Well this was fun, let’s dit again sometime. ~ Quniaron Bellthing
She did it the hard way. ~ Bette Davis
Hey Ram (Translation: “Oh, God”). ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Don’t Try. ~ Charles Bukowski
Here lies a man who knew how to enlist the service of better men than himself. ~ Andrew Carnegie
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald (same as the last line of The Great Gatsby.)
Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m Free At Last. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Truth to your own spirit. ~ Jim Morrison
Here lies one whose name was writ in water. ~ John Keats
Workers of all lands unite. The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. ~ Karl Marx
Called back. ~ Emily Dickinson
A Gentle Man and a Gentleman. ~ Jack Dempsey
Curiosity did not kill this cat. ~ Studs Terkel
I told you so, you damned fools. ~ H. G. Wells
Against you I will fling myself unvanquished and unyielding, O Death! ~ Virginia Woolf
The Stone the Builders Rejected. ~ Jack London (The second half of this quote, found in the Bible, reads “has become the capstone.” but London only included the first half.)
Never born, Never died: visited the planet earth between December 11, 1931 and, January 19, 1990. ~ Osho
If this doesn’t inspire you to make your own, I don’t know what will.
Wait. Don’t be mortified, death is really not morbid. Only life could be. Death is Not (Anything).
Mark Twain, again, on the other line:
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
Like most fear, fear of death is also an illusion, since it’s only from life that we can actually contemplate anything; look death in the face and at least be able to choose our own epitaph.
As Active Designers of Life and Stubborn Creators of Fate, by choosing and knowing what will be written on our stone, we might turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy; so instead of just a pretty quote, it will eventually become the marrow of our lives.
In my case, I’ll always be upset with Robert Frost for writing what I would have probably come up with, had “the ancients not stolen my best thoughts.”
“And were an epitaph to be my story,
I’d have a short one ready for my own.
I would have written of me on my stone.
I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
And ever since I became a Kerouac convert, I’m flirting with his “Live, Travel, Adventure, Bless and Don’t be sorry,” said in past tense, third person.
Don’t think it’s a déjà vu, if you ever stumble upon a tombstone that looks like me and reads:
She lived, traveled, blessed, [loved], adventured…and she wasn’t sorry.
(You can borrow this if you want, Jack and I don’t mind being dead with you.)
And while we’re here, Living Wonder, don’t forget…
“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is…at last, to love it for what it is, and then to put it away.” ~ Virginia Woolf
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