True, tombstones are not so much the fashion today but one should not ignore one’s epitaph whether on a tombstone or not. In just a few words, certainly less than a dozen, a person’s life is encapsulated for all time. Who are you? What is it about you that contributed to reality?
Addressing the enormity of the epitaph with humor, mariner’s family and friends are well aware mariner considers the verb ‘get’ to be an evil destroyer of vocabulary. American usage, especially the simple past and past participle (got), displaces at least 17 additional words every day. What happened to “I received mail?” or “I understand it?” and a myriad more forgotten words that actually have a specific meaning. Even word partner ‘have’ is left out: “I gotta go.”
Mariner’s wife was quick to offer her choice for mariner’s epitaph: “Here lies mariner. He got dead.” Her own characteristics of never being able to leave the house just once without forgetting something and coming back – two or three times – provided her epitaph: “Here lies mariner’s wife. She’ll be back.” Identifying one another’s epitaphs should be entertainment for the family or even at a party.
Humor aside, although it is the fun part, identifying the most important influence one has had on reality is a personal value that carries serious import. The ego, too, is close to the surface. The caveat is that the opinion of others may not be as rosy or complimentary as one’s own opinion. In short, epitaph may become epithet. For example, “Here lies Sam. He never met a prejudice he didn’t like.” Perhaps, “Here lies Darlene. She made the most of eleven marriages.
The subjects of these two examples likely had more grandiose images of themselves, perhaps invoking thoughts of sacrifice to others in spite of the world the subjects lived in. Many are aware that they have committed their life to a cause. A very common example is caring for the quality of life in a spouse; another common raison d’être is raising one’s children.
It is true that epitaphs based on behavioral characteristics tend to be humorous but there is merit to identifying within one’s self what one did to improve the world in some way. One doesn’t need to discover this at a party. In fact, each of us needs to give time every once in a while to what value our life has been to reality.