A Living Epitaph – sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?
Death surrounds us. We lose family, friends, acquaintances, loved ones, pets, co-workers, even celebrities (those people we don’t really “know”, but are somehow a part of our life), and in my case…sadly, former students. Just a part of life throughout our journey upon this muddy sphere of life. Our periods of mourning varies depending on the person and their personality. For me, cutting my hair, music, crying buckets upon buckets of tears, building a memorial, and spiritual introspection all seem to be part of my mourning process. Don’t ask me why, it is just me. Maybe it is also why I am fascinated by epitaphs – although there is nothing special on our own family stones.
George Washington: (1732-1799) – Looking into the portals of eternity teaches That the Brotherhood of Man is Inspired by God’s WORD; Then all prejudice of race vanishes away.
I tend to think that music is the Light that is always in my transitory hallway of mourning. It echoes down that darken space where the lights are almost non-existent and scary shadows stretch up the walls. It beckons me forward when I really don’t want to move. If I listen, it encourages my steps, inch-by-tiny inch. Its harmonies, melodies, accompaniments, harmonic overtones, dissonances waft around me until I am ready to open a new door in my life and walk through. When my father died, I filled my life with classical music. Requiems – masses – in particular, the B-Minor Mass by Bach and Bernstein’s Mass. My college choir sang the B-Minor Mass just a few months after Daddy died and “Simple Song” from Bernstein’s Mass resonated in my soul constantly – and still does. I spent a long time in that hallway before my steps reached the right door to open. Many years later, that transitory hallway appeared again when my mother died. This time it was filled with spirituals…specifically the recordings of Moses Hogan choirs: Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot and Gonna Ride. It was a shorter hallway for some reason, but still a very dark one.
Benjamin Franklin: (1706-90) – The body of B. Franklin, Printer, Like the cover of an old book Its contents torn out, And stripped of its lettering and gilding, Lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be wholly lost, For it will, as he believed, appear once more, In a new and more perfect edition, Corrected and amended. By the Author.
Since the time my father walked me through my first graveyard and pointed out special family markers, looking at tombstones have always been fascinating to me. Walking through old, old cemeteries is always one of my favorite things to do. Especially taking the time to read the Epitaphs. Epitaphs are a way of summing up a person’s life. Some of the great ones are written by the deceased before their passing. Some are blank. Some are short. Some are erased by weathering over the decades. Now there are even pictures and computer chips that can be activated by cell-phones. Epitaphs are as varied as the people that walk upon this earth.
Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior: (1929-1968) – Free at Last, Free at Last Thank God Almighty I’m Free at Last.
I watched a movie this weekend. In it the protagonist was challenged to change his life. In the climax, the protagonists sits in a graveyard and writes two lists. One was a list of lies that he has always believed; the other, a list of truths that he has found to be true. He buries the lies and then writes a living epitaph for himself using those truths as a guide. Those three words stuck with me all weekend. A Living Epitaph: a sentence that describes who we want to be from here on out. We don’t have to wait till we die before we are “free” or “re-written” or “inspired”. Because of Grace, we can be all of these things today. We can bury the “lies” we believed about ourselves and become – A Living Epitaph. It is just a simple action of opening up the door and walking into the Light.
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” Jn 11:25