Of Tombstones and Epitaphs
What would you like to be written on your tombstone?
A few days ago, my friend asked this question to a group of brilliant writers and word wizards. Some of them came up with beautiful profound quotes. Yet others chose to be buried alive and not have a tombstone at all. In my culture, I wouldn’t have a tombstone. I’d be cremated, which means nobody will ever know I walked on the face of the earth. There would be no stone that read my name, no wooden casket five feet and four inches long will have to bear my weight. Perhaps a few people will remember me and talk about me to a few others but over time, the few will become very few and dwindle to a handful and then to nobody.
But, if I had a tombstone and could pick my own epitaph, it would probably read- “The girl who lived because she wrote; the girl who wrote for herself.”
Then I wonder if that would work. I like to imagine there is a huge oak tree a few feet away from my grave. Will somebody really come to visit me? Will somebody sit on the bench under the big oak tree? Will they be lost in reminiscence- of the person I was or the person I was not? Will they remember the stories I wrote? Will they be told to young children? Will the tales live after I’m gone? Perhaps, I should have left them where people would find them easily- on my table or the book shelf, instead of hiding them between the pages of books that nobody will ever touch.
Maybe it will not matter where I left the stories. Maybe they were never meant to see the light. I will probably be reduced to what meets the naked eye. A slightly chubby girl who never did master the art of cooking or keeping house, or folding the laundry like the dry-cleaners would. Perhaps, that is what onlookers will tell the man who is to engrave the epitaph. ‘The girl who had to grow up too soon and didn’t quite master the use of a ladle or a broom. Like someone else.’ There is always someone else who cooks better. And I am not she; I know I will never be she. But nobody cares that I don’t want to be she.
If I had to describe me, I’d call myself a story teller, a dreamer, an aspiring writer, a thinker. If I could truly bring about one change to mankind, it would be to get people to look beyond the surface. I am chubby, an uninhibited extrovert and a lousy cook. But I’d like to think I’m more than that. So are you. You could be a lousy ad-maker, but a fantastic teacher or a chess wizard or a gifted hair stylist. And that is what should define you. We should all be given the right to write our epitaphs, because nobody else will ever know all the layers that dance under the surface of our skin. Unless you decide to leave your life an open book and remember to leave the book on the table.