Epitaph - What would yours say?
Epitaph…ever heard of the word? Neither had I until a few days ago. But the word and what we were asked to do with it brought a group of grown men and women to tears.
You see we were in a workshop and at the end of the day, the facilitator said: Right I want you to write your own Epitaph. For those of you who are like me and had no idea about an Epitaph, it is ‘a phrase or form of words written in memory of a person who has died, especially as an inscription on a tombstone’.
So we were being asked to write about what we would think our family and friends would say at our funeral. The brief was that it was to be 50-100 words and we had to be honest, really honest. To put the emotional boot in even further, we were given two letters from loved ones whom had been asked to write to us about what we mean to them. What they think of us as a person. After reading the letters we were then to reflect on ourselves and begin writing our own Epitaph. It was confronting, difficult and emotional. Yet it was a great exercise as it gave us the opportunity to reflect on what we really, and I mean really think people would say about us when we were no longer around. How we would be remembered. What kind of person we were, what type of life we led and most significantly the impact we had on others.
Once we had written them, we had to read them out and the raw nature of the exercise took shape. Of course, everyone’s Epitaph’s differed yet there were some common themes. Perhaps more significantly the commonality wasn’t so much about what was said but more significantly what none of us said. Not one of us mentioned money, no one said anything about being financially successful, popular, famous, attractive, slim, desirable, having huge social media followings. When push came to shove and we had to think about the end and I mean the real end, none of those things mattered to any of us. The things that we can so often get caught up within life faded away when it came down to 100 words or less about what was important. Love, family, friends, a life of service, of helping others, of being humble were all mentioned. It was a powerful exercise and it was a good reminder to once in a while rethink and sometimes reset our values and our core purpose in life.
What would your Epitaph say?
Artwork - Roz Chast - The New Yorker