I have a collection of humorous and poignant epitaphs and tombstone verses. I find it interesting to note what is said about someone who has recently died. Granted, not all tombstone sayings are telling. Like the one for Lester Moore at Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona:
HERE LIES LESTER MOORE FOUR SLUGS FROM A 44 NO LES NO MORE
Or this grave marker from Uniontown, Pennsylvania:
HERE LIES THE BODY OF JONATHAN BLAKE STEPPED ON THE GAS INSTEAD OF THE BRAKE
In the effort to explain how the person died, the tombstone of Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York says:
LOOKED UP THE ELEVATOR SHAFT TO SEE IF THE CAR WAS ON THE WAY DOWN IT WAS
Television celebrity and talk show host Merv Griffin penned his own:
I WILL NOT BE RIGHT BACK AFTER THIS MESSAGE
Sometimes these “last words” reveal more than the deceased may have wanted, like this one:
HERE LIES A FELLOW WHO LIVED FOR HIMSELF AND CARED FOR NOTHING BUT GATHERING PELF NOW WHERE HE IS OR HOW HE FARES NOBODY KNOWS AND NOBODY CARES
These posthumous writings will often summarize a life. If accurate, they can point the reader to that which was most important to the deceased. Did this person enjoy life? Was she cared for? Did he make a difference? Did she leave a legacy?
When you die, how will you be remembered?
Newspaper columnist Nick Clooney printed some epitaphs from people still alive, written by themselves. Some were humorous, some serious. Some hoped that their own original epitaph would be close to the way they might be remembered. One that I appreciate came from Charlie Mechem, former head of Taft Broadcasting. Charlie wished that this might be put on his tombstone: “Dear God, Thanks for letting me visit. I had a wonderful time.”
All right. Not every day is a wonderful day. But as I look back over my life, the good and bad, the difficult and fun and exciting and dreadful, I would like to be able to say in summary: I had a wonderful time. There were friends and family, there were failures and even disasters, but there was also plenty of fun. And through it all, there was important work to do. When it’s finally over, I want to honestly say I had a wonderful time.
So I’m going to make sure I appreciate today. And I know that if I can look back on most days as being somehow worthwhile, and often times enjoyable, I know that if I will find a way to appreciate every day given to me, I will be able to say in all sincerity, “I had a wonderful time.”
I can’t ask for more.