In her post on names and the importance of names, QuoinMonkey wrote that “When we are long gone, our names are the one thing that will live on through time. My great, great grandmother wanted to be remembered by the things she loved. What epitaph would you want next to your name?”
A rich conversation ensued. QM asked me if I had ever thought much about my epitaph, to which I said, “I haven’t thought about an epitaph, QM, probably because I have this notion that if I do something like that, then I’ll suddenly and completely unexpectedly die and everyone will say, Wow, and she was *just* talking about her epitaph!”
Well, today while organizing almost 30 years of journals, I opened up an old spiral notebook and found an obituary I had written for myself when I was 19 years old. It filled one-fourth of a college-ruled page and was written in the tiny, compressed handwriting that was my hallmark during that time.
Here’s what it said (my name is blanked out):
____ ________, the famous artist, died today at the age of 78. She was killed in Rome, Italy during a street riot in which she was involved. Ms. ________ began her career as a commercial artist in Seattle, Washington, eventually starting the successful ________ Advertising Co. Eventually, she sold the company and went on to become a controversial artist in New Mexico. During that time she and her family resided on the outskirts of Santa Fe. At the age of 62, she was offered a position to direct the School of Modern Art in Italy. There she drastically changed the art world and became world-renowned. She is survived by her husband, her two children, and five grandchildren.
I only vaguely recall writing this. I can’t remember if it was an assignment or if I was simply trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and thought that writing my obituary might reveal what was really important to me. Underneath the obituary, on five lines, are the following:
What to give up
Why do I want
Goals narrow or broad? Why?
What could interfere w/plans? Enhance plans?
I’m left wondering, what does this obituary say about me? I wanted to be successful, controversial, world-renowned. I wanted to change the world and die fighting for what I believed in. I wanted to be sophisticated, a world traveler, multi-national even. I lived on the outskirts of Santa Fe, and here I picture Georgia O’Keeffe except not Georgia O’Keeffe, her alter-ego instead, a fiesty old woman who would take to the streets of Rome to die.
Clearly I haven’t done enough in the past 27 years to contribute toward making my obituary come true. I do have a husband and two children, but this whole part about drastically changing the art world…well…
I’m certain my obituary would be different were I to write it anew. I’d give up the death-by-street-riot, living in Rome, and drastically changing the art world. I’m not even sure I’d go for being world-renowned. The five grandchildren sound pretty cool, so I’d keep those. And I’d definitely add 15 years to my final age, just to make sure I’m around long enough to enjoy the grandkids if I ever do have any.
-Related to posts The Uses Of Sorrow – What Is It About Obituaries? and Reading The Obits.