Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Final Words

I enjoy wandering thru cemeteries reading headstones. There's an abundance of beloved spouse and parent, many I suspect to be a lie. But every once in a while I run across a gem. A favorite - "My death does not mean you get the last word". Ok then; my first reaction was the words gave a fairly accurate picture of the person's nature. Clearly she was a real bitch.
Sometime later that week I got into wondering about the person who chose the engraving. Was it a spouse or child; a sibling or best friend? All we have are the words he or she selected to memorialize the deceased.
I visited the grave again next time I was out that way. The decease's first name is too androgynous to reveal gender. He/she lived well into their eighties. There were no religious symbols on the headstone. A trek around nearby graves suggested he/she wasn't buried with family. I couldn't stop wondering why those words were chosen.
Several more times I ventured out to the cemetery expanding my search section-by-section looking for a clue. I guess I figured somewhere in the rows of aging leaning headstones would be one that read "in heaven the argument continues". Or words to that effect. See, I was still of the frame of mind the deceased was a bitch. I wouldn't have been surprised to find a headstone with "now I'll never hear the end of it".  Or "I hope heaven has earplugs".
Weeks went by, I was busy elsewhere when out of the blue it occurred to me what a large decorative headstone marked the grave. Somebody spent big money on it. And the engraving was done nice and deep so to be legible for a good long time. This didn't seem like the actions of someone laying a nagging spouse to rest. 
My mind began exploring other possibilities. Still assuming the deceased to be female, my perception of her altered from shrew to fun-loving and outgoing. Could be she was laid to rest by her husband of fifty plus years who looked back fondly on their life together and knew the one thing he'd miss most was their recreational bickering. Maybe it was one of her kids that picked those words because he/she knew mom's voice would be in his head guiding away from or reprimanding poor decisions. Quite possibly a lifelong friend ordered the engraving to give the deceased "the last word".
I have been charged with the honor of seeing to the final arrangements of several friends and one nephew. Although we joke about it, I do take the responsibility very seriously.
Given my sense of humor and the fact they won't be around to stop me, perhaps there should be some concern on what I might have engraved on their headstones. I'm good with words. I like things that make people stop and think. Remember - I'm the one who had "there'll be a test later" engraved on my oldest brother's headstone.
The choice for my nephew is easy. Due to terms of our agreement regarding his final resting place I feel it both fitting and necessary to toss a small bronze plaque after his body as it rolls down the mountainside into a ravine. See, it would be my luck that his head will strike a rock and years later when his remains are found some medical examiner will rule his death a homicide. Therefore to save a lot of fuss I'll send him off with a plaque that reads "natural causes; leave me be".
When the time comes and a certain friend's ashes are scattered, I swear I'm posting this sign nearby:
"Wipe your feet! I ain't going home with you".
For all the cemeteries I've wandered through I'm still hoping to come across:
"I have time now, what did you want"
"Double-dog dared 1X too many"
"Last thing I said, men don't read instructions"
"Dude - I'm dead"
"Psst, don't look now. . ."
"Yes; I was feeling lucky"
"Ah, someone else is in here too"
"Died with a smile. Still smiling. Ask me why"