Last week, at one of our workshops, we were asked to take a minute to think about and write down our epitaph. We were told that we could include the year we wanted to die (why not?) and were reminded to keep our text brief as only so many characters will fit. This is the second time I’ve been asked to do this. I don’t remember what I wrote the first time (not a good sign) so I was eager to participate in this exercise again. If I couldn’t remember my epitaph, it had to have been bad. When we were done, we were asked to turn to our neighbors and share what we had written.
(You can read my epitaph is at the bottom but don’t scroll just yet, let me tell the story)
I listened as a colleague listed the important roles in her life that she wanted inscribed, each one a beautiful part of her. I joined the other voices in the room as I shared, in the most boiled down sentence, what I wanted my life to be about. We were all very eager to share with each other and our speaker had to work a little to bring our attention back.
His observation surprised me. He said, “You know what’s interesting about this? I just asked all of you to write your epitaphs and all I could hear when you were sharing was laughter. We’re talking about something pretty solemn here and yet, there’s joy to be found and shared. It is fun to live within the context of your purpose.” (To the naysayer: if you don’t know your purpose, writing out your epitaph is a fantastic way of finding it).
This exercise was not “depressing” – moments were sobering and the thoughts were serious but when we got to share, to explain why we chose the year we did, and speak about the meaning in what we wrote, we all found joy.
When we can boil our life down to a few words that we feel appropriately sum up our lives we don’t just have an epitaph before us, we have a clear and in-focus mantra of how we want to live.
I enjoyed this exercise so much and have been so challenged by it that I want to ask you to do it now. Take a moment, grab a pen and paper, and write out the first few things that come to mind. Perhaps, write down what year you think would be “ok” to die in – I know this feels a bit strange but there’s going to be a year when it happens and I’m pretty sure the sensation of writing it out for yourself will be a unique one.
Take one more minute …
Are you happy with it?
Do you want to share it in the comments below? I’d love to read it, but no pressure ; )
I thought I’d share mine with you since I would want to know if I was reading this crazy mortuary blog. But for all the inspiration I got out of this exercise and even writing this blog, do you know what happened when I typed my epitaph out? I cried.
I saw my name, my years, my whole life reduced to a simplicity that shocked me. But you know what else? I cried because I really love my epitaph. I love sharing it with you, it brings a lot of emotions up but at the forefront is my determined desire to LIVE THIS WAY; to live in light of my epitaph.
I hope you’ll do the same.
Neil Patrick O’Connor
“Don’t forget to breathe” or “Don’t take life to serious it will kill you”
Joseph “Fitz” Fitzgerald
1962 – 2047
Do not grieve. I am happy knowing the Chicago Cubs have never won a World Series.
What a great exercise and yes it did make me laugh to think what do I say and then do I have enough room to say it , Id like my marker to be the length of my grave just so I have enough space. I listed something for my wife just to have an idea.
Daniel “Joe” Lavoie
1965 – 2045
Missing him is easy we do it everyday but there’s a pain within our heart’s that will never go away.
I liked this. It came quickly, so here goes:
Anne A Collins
She loved deeply
Made a Difference
To Be, Or Not To Be?
Thats solid. Hold me to it, I beg of you. It perfectly describes everything about me.