Happy new year. Now, let’s think about your death.

Okay, so not just your death but mine too. As we turn the corner into another year, we’re all madly making new years resolutions, promising ourselves and those around us that we will eat better, exercise more, blah blah blah.

I’m not a big resolution making girl, largely due to the fact that they never seem to stick but also because that just seems like too much planning and not enough spontaneity to me.

This year, however, I am looking forward into the year and thinking about what I hope it looks like. And in order to do that,  I am giving serious proper consideration to my epitaph.

In Sarah Cunningham’s book, The Well-balanced World Changer, there was this:

What do you value? I’ll tell you without you saying a word.

You value

1. Whatever you’re putting the most time into.

2. Whatever you’re putting the most money into.

3. Whatever you’re putting the most energy into.

We live what we value, don’t we? So what we value, aka how we live, will be reflected in what people say about us at our funeral.

It’s nothing new, this imagining what we want people to think about us after we’ve departed but it is timely to think about in light of our resolutions for 2014.

I haven’t finalised it yet, but I am quite literally going to write my epitaph. Once I know what I want the end result to be, I’ll be able to work backwards and see if my life is heading me in a direction that would make those words true by the end of my days. And if it isn’t, I can look to adjust my life to fit in with my values and who I want to be.

I’m going to share it with you, too, so feel free to join in and think about what you want your epitaph to say.

Challenging, yes. Confronting, yes. Morbid, possibly.

Worth it in order to live the life you want before it’s too late? Definitely.

12 thoughts on “Happy new year. Now, let’s think about your death.

  1. Susannah, you are right on the money about writing your epitaph. For those of us who are closer to the day it will be written for us, the pressure is on to make sure it reads the way we want it to. My wake-up call was a friend’s funeral 15 years ago when so many people told stories about this incredible lady and we laughed and cried and laughed some more. I came away from there wondering if anyone would laugh at my funeral (I’ve always been WAAAAYYY too serious) and figured I needed to make some major changes. I’ve made some, but your piece is a good reminder I need to refresh my goals along those lines. Thank you.

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  2. Interesting for me, because they say I actually am dying. Getting to 2014 was something of a miracle, and no one’s taking bets on my seeing in 2015. Except me. I still think I’ll live forever.

    I have thought about the question of what my epitaph would look like, and from where I stand now – I don’t care. Life has devolved into something like an action replay of Rorke’s Drift, and I’m too busy dealing with the figurative hostiles coming over the walls to worry about long-term goals. Right now, 24 hours can be long-term sometimes.

    And yet. Once in my life I stood in harm’s way, so perhaps I might be honored with the epitaph Housman penned:

    These, in the day that Heaven was falling,
    the hour when Earth’s foundations fled,
    followed their mercenary calling
    and took their wages, and are dead.

    Their shoulders held the sky suspended,
    they stood, and Earth’s foundations stay.
    What God abandoned, these defended
    and saved the sum of things for pay.

    The best thing I may have been was a mercenary. That says something, but I’m flummoxed if I know exactly what!

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    • Well, I, for one, am very pleased a miracle took place and you are here to comment in 2014.

      You have an interesting perspective given you are one who is experiencing in reality what I was intending as an exercise. I would love to know what your short long-term goals are. Do you feel the need to squeeze every minute for every single facet it has to offer? Or do the physical demands on your body become the focal point? It must be a strange space to live in, I imagine.
      I don’t know about you being a mercenary, but I do know your input here and to my life has been encouraging, thought provoking and increased my pursuit of God. You shine brightly, my friend.

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      • I’m glad to be here, too!

        It is a strange place to be. I try to walk a line between allowing my body’s demands to become the focal point, and trying to get the most out of every minute.

        Both are an implicit surrender to adversity. The challenge is to be normal, and not a caricature, driven by either denial or self-pity. Certainly one has to recognize both pain and physical limitation, and the probability that long-term goals will remain unrealized. But that does not mean that one cannot work on the acceptance of pain, and in the hope that the odds will be beaten.

        One important factor is discipline. I go through a rather unpleasant exercise routine every day (to the point that I’m spitting up blood and in tears at the end of each session). But I no longer take pain medicine (it dimmed my mind) and the production of natural endorphins through exercise seems to help. At least, being fit, I have a bit further to fall.

        I won’t say this is a blessing…or is it? Absent the current situation, my wife would not have found the career in which she’s blooming, and several dogs that now sleep in the living room would have never have crossed my path, and would have met sad ends.

        It’s acceptable, under those terms.

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        • The surrendering must be hard. I’ve had my fair share of sickness over the last few years and know how difficult it is to surrender even for a few months. I felt totally at the mercy of the illness and consequently at the mercy of those caring for me. Not easy places to be in for independent, normally capable beings such as myself! And the challenge to be normal, must be exactly that – a challenge.

          I so admire you for the discipline of the exercise. To go through something so wholly unpleasant for some reprieve from the pain takes bravery and not a small amount of determination.

          Finding the blessings in adversity seems such a cliche but, as with most cliches, has the ring of truth sounding loud and clear. There ARE always blessings and things to be thankful for. My husband has the auto-immune disease rheumatoid arthritis, and learning to be thankful for what it has brought to our lives, both the things that seem negative to us and the ones that seem positive, has been a great time of spiritual stretching and learning. So I understand the juxtaposition of illness being a blessing and a curse.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your honesty. We need more people around like you.

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  3. I like the idea of writing the epitaph and then working backward. Though I probably won’t write it, I will think about it. I hope people can laugh at my memorial service and talk about how kind I was, how much fun I was, what I did to change their lives. Good post, Susannah!

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  4. I had to do this for a psychology class, Susannah. I wish I knew where it was. I remember the activity being enlightening. I appreciate the reminder that what we value is measured by where we spend our money, time and energy. I consistently come away from your posts with a lot for think about.

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    • Thanks for your kind words Kim 🙂 As you can’t find yours from the psychology class, maybe you could do it again? Wouldn’t it be interesting to write it periodically and see if it changes over the years? Might do that!

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