What do I want on my tombstone? While that may not be the happiest thought, it did occur to me as we walked around Highgate Cemetary today. Seeing all the various kinds of tombstones and inscriptions made me think about what I want my inscription to say. As I walked along the heavily-treed pathways, and saw sculptures of Celtic crosses, Christian crosses, angels, and even dogs and horses, I realized that these were all representations of people’s lives. They, or their loved ones, picked these sculptures, these symbols, and these words to sum up what they believed in life. I then tried to imagine what would sum up my life. How does one begin to choose the words or symbols to represent a life?
When I saw George Eliot’s tombtone, it had her nom de plume in quotes, and her legal name beneath it, which made me wonder – what is it that defines you? Is it your life’s work? Is it your family role? Is it what you do for others? Or, in the end, are you a composite that is summed up in a minuscule inscription in stone? These are questions for which I have no answer, but I have always like the Beatles’ “The End” lyric: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Today I did at least pick up some good ideas on tombstone decor. And, perhaps I’ll take a cue from one of the tombstones we saw today– that of a popular British boxer– and have a stone sculpture of my dog placed at the foot of my grave for eternal protection and companionship.