October 29, 2012

Question 14: Choose your own epitaph

How’dya like that storm, huh? We’re up here in New England, getting only the outer reaches of it, and it’s pretty intense for us. We still have power (for now), and everyone’s safe in the house. Except for our cat. Who went out last night. And hasn’t returned.

I’m too worried to even make light of it. I can’t stop thinking of him out there, holed up somewhere in the wind and rain, scared and confused. He’s a good cat – a really, really good cat. If you can describe a cat as having a gentle soul, that’s him. I walked the neighborhood in the storm, calling to him, but nothing. I know there are so many people in harm’s way, so I feel selfish worrying about a cat, but he is our cat, so I worry anyway.

At any rate, I’m still working through those birthday questions. Here’s a doozie:

In one sentence, how would you like us to remember you?

One sentence? One sentence?! Haven’t you noticed I never use my Twitter account? It takes me three sentences just to sneeze.

You’re asking me to write my epitaph. As my grandfather grew older, he became more and more interested in epitaphs, which was ironic because he wanted to be cremated. So, as a child I was given an appreciation of the fine art of epitaph writing.

There’s a lot of pressure to write a good one. It’s going to be etched in stone after all. It’s not like some long-lost Facebook status. This is the last word. And it all has to fit on one stone.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s is the last line of The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” I’ve visited Fitzgerald’s grave and marveled that this sentence, a line that so perfectly encapsulates my life, was written so many years before my birth and then inscribed upon the writer’s gravestone.

You may have noticed I’m stalling here. That’s because it’s really fucking hard to write my own epitaph. Some thoughts:

“She tried her best with what she had.”

“She believed in people.”

“She lived fully and drank deeply of the marrow of life.”

Or maybe just, “She made good pumpkin bread.”

The truth is, I have no idea how other people see me, just as I have no idea how others see themselves. So, what do you think? Can you do it? One sentence to describe how you want to be remembered?

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  • Reply sara October 30, 2012 at 12:03 am

    I guess I would love it if it went something like this:
    “She cared.”

  • Reply Tragic Sandwich October 30, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Something along the lines of “She was in your corner.”

  • Reply Kristina October 30, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Ummmm ….. I have no idea what my epitaph would be. I guess the best I could hope for would be something akin to “She eventually got some things right.” But that’s not why I’m here. I just wanted to stop by and say I read your book. And I sat there stunned and heartbroken and uplifted, all at the same time. Thank you for sharing your story. Here’s my total review on Goodreads:


  • Reply Em October 31, 2012 at 8:22 am

    She cared.

  • Reply Lauren November 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Beloved Wife and Mother. If they still love me then I’ve done something right. Telling lack of “Daughter” although I truly hope I outlive my mother (I’ve already outlived my Dad). Or maybe the thing I tell my kids all the time “If you’d just be careful you wouldn’t have to be sorry.” Or the truth “Avid reader, non-housekeeper, good cook, did her best.” Ok, clearly this requires more thought… And once I’ve perfected it a codicil to my will.

    I’m having one of my lapses in following so I didn’t realize Woodpile had been released but I added it to my Kindle just now. I love your writing Emily and I remember the excerpts from Wheels on the Bus. I’ll get my review up as soon as I’ve finished (which may be tomorrow – who needs sleep)!

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