This needs serious editing but there was some kind of glitch with the website when I tried to preview my post before I published it and it deleted all my changes. Here’s the rough copy…
Last week’s Word of the Week (W.O.W.) was “brevity”. The brevity of human life is a topic of discussion in many forums. This week’s “epitaph” seemed like a natural progression. Christopher Crisp (2008) defines “epitaph” as such: “Epitaphs provide a short definition of a person’s life” (para.1). Though simple, this explains exactly what an epitaph is. Some epitaphs are clichés, others more original. An epitaph is what is written on one’s tombstone when they die, how someone might sum up your life at your funeral, or what people may think or say about you when you’re gone. What would your epitaph be? That’s something to think about… I chose “epitaph” as this week’s W.O.W. because I have seen a lot of death in my life, more than most I think…
My mother has worked in a nursing home my entire life. I spent a huge chunk of my childhood in that nursing home, because for a large portion of my childhood my mother was single and could not afford childcare. I played Dominos, checkers, and cards and sometimes put puzzles together with some of the residents. I would visit them in their rooms or hand them their little water cups when my mother (a nurse) would give them their pills.
The problem with spending so much time with people in a nursing home is I have out-lived almost all of them. I can’t tell you how many funerals I have attended for my mother’s residents. Some of them had families; some didn’t. I’ve waited in long lines to bid them goodbye, but I have also sat in a room with my mother and a handful of other nursing home employees to honor their lives. Those funerals are always the saddest ones, and there is usually no eulogy or “service”, just a few well-wishers trying to honor someone who out-lived anyone else who ever cared. What would you say at the funeral of someone you barely knew?
I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember this man died who had a partner (girlfriend) in the nursing home. We’ll call them Arty and Eva. Both of them had been seriously disabled for as long as I had known them. I remember how heartbreaking it was to watch two employees lift Eva’s tiny body from her wheelchair and perch her up next to Arty’s casket. Tears poured from her eyes but she had never been able to speak well. No discernible words came from her lips, just sounds, and I remember wanting to know what she was saying. I have no doubt she would have given Arty a beautiful eulogy if she could have. What was his epitaph? Eva had been the one person he had ever shared his soul with and she couldn’t share it at his passing, but the air was certainly thick with grief and love. The sound of her heart breaking was Arty’s epitaph.
Definition of Epitaph
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2013) defines epitaph as “an inscription on or at a tomb or a grave in memory of the one buried there; a brief statement commemorating or epitomizing a deceased person or something past” (para.1-2). It goes on to describe it as such:
Inscription in verse or prose on a tomb, or, by extension, anything written as if to be inscribed on a tomb. Probably the earliest surviving epitaphs are those written on ancient Egyptian sarcophagi and coffins. Ancient Greek examples are often of literary interest. In Elizabethan times epitaphs began to assume a more literary character. Many of the best known are literary memorials (often deliberately witty) not intended for a tomb (para. 6).
Origins of Epitaph
The first known use of the word “epitaph” was during the 14th century. It comes from the Greek epitaphion or epi + taphos (tomb + funeral).
My Two Cents
Over the last 18 years I have lost a lot of people I care about. It started with my Grandpa Simmons. He helped raise me until I was about 12 years old. He died right after school started my freshman year of high school. It was the first death to seriously impact my life that I can remember. About a year and half later my step-dad’s father died. A few months later my maternal grandfather died on my 16th birthday. Six years later my husband’s grandmother, great uncle, and great aunt died. You can think it may not impact me as much as my ex-husband and you would be right, but I was extremely close with most of his family. My great uncle died about a year or two before my great aunt. She died five years ago and my ex-husband’s other great uncle followed shortly after. Just before our divorce, he also lost a cousin who was my age. Tragedy struck last September when my ex and his mother were in a bad accident. She was crushed inside the car and he was thrown from it. (He is still paralyzed, tragically.)
I was incredibly close to my ex-mother-in-law. Sometimes I felt closer to her than my own mother. When she passed, there was not a single soul on Earth who could say a sour word about her. She was the most giving, loving, selfless person I have ever known. It left a huge hole in my heart after she was gone. I miss her every day. A day or so after she died, I wrote a poem. For me, it was her epitaph. I suppose there were others who could have said something different from what I said. No one person has only one epitaph. Each person means something different to each person they know. I suppose it is the most popular opinion that endures. Of course, everyone had a pretty good opinion of her. (If you would like to read the poem I have copied it at the bottom of this post.)
About seven months ago I lost my grandmother. I was living with her at the time. She was not only my father’s mother. She was a saint. She raised me when no one else could (or would), and every time I needed help, she was the only person I knew I could always turn to. I loved her immensely, deeply. I would have given my life to have given her more time in this world. She was only 69 years old. She had pancreatic cancer and we didn’t know it until it was too late. I have seen a lot of death, lost a lot of people I loved, but this was the greatest loss of my life. The sting is still fresh, the void is still deep, and the pain still real. The pain is more than I can bear some days. Every time I have suffered extreme pain, especially when I have lost a loved one, I have found solace in my writing. I write poems (like the one below), or short stories like the one I wrote when my friend’s father died. Something was different when my grandmother died. I couldn’t write. I was incapable of writing anything about her, to honor her, to grieve for her. To this day I have yet to write anything for my grandmother. It disturbs me greatly. All I can do is pray and hope that someday my broken heart will allow me to write for her the way I have for others…
My research for this week has directed me to some unexpected reading. I can’t tell you how many epitaphs I have read, about people I have never met, written by people I will never meet. It was both interesting and inspiring to see what people say about others after they are gone. It made me think, “If I died tomorrow, what would my epitaph be?” I am not so sure I am ready to know…
I call this “B.I.G.”…
Way up over yonder,
Above the sky of blue
Is a big ol’ cabin & a farm
Where the owner waits for me & you.
To get to her farm
We can’t go by plane or bus
But she made sure it was just big enough
For every one of us.
There’s meatloaf in the oven
And chicken on the stove.
She’s cookin’ somethin’ for each of us
‘Cause that’s how she shows her love.
She stirs the homemade noodles,
Pepsi can in hand.
And hums along to Lynard Skynard
And the Charlie Daniels Band.
There ain’t no invitation.
Anyone can come.
Arrive early or late, doesn’t matter.
She welcomes everyone.
She’ll bend over backwards
For anyone in need.
She’ll pick you up when you fall,
Kiss your boo-boo’s, & bandage skinned knees.
She’ll be a mother, grandma,or friend
When you feel like you have none.
And she’ll offer forgiveness and a hug,
No matter what you’ve done.
Even all the critters
Call her “Momma” too –
Be it a cat, dog, goat,
or a pony named “Blue”.
Every now and then
She may get in your face.
And tell you to “cowgirl up”
Or put you in your place.
She always plays with the big dogs
And is tougher than most men.
Her motto: “Go big or go home”
And she did both in the end…
She was the most amazing woman
And so full of life.
It’s so easy to be angry
That she’s gone before her time.
But Boobie wouldn’t want us
To get depressed and cry
Because she died doing what she loved
With her son by her side.
Whether in a derby car or in life
She never passed up a fight.
But even though she was one tough cookie
Her bark was still worse than her bite.
She was stubborn as a mule
But sweet as she could be.
And now there is one amazing angel
Watching out for you and me.
In loving memory of Boobie I.Gray. 4/17/1961 – 9/23/2012. I love & miss you so much, Momma Boobie. Love, Crystal
Crisp, C. (2008, Oct 23). Epitaphs provide a short definition of person’s life. The Dispatch. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/435469618?accountid=458
“Epitaph.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Aug. 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epitaph>.
I am sitting in the lounge at my car dealer waiting for them to replace a damaged tire. In the meantime I thought I would let everyone know I AM working on this week’s Word of the Week. I haven’t already fallen off the wagon. It’s just been a busy week. I am still getting over the last remaining symptoms of shingles and yesterday I fell out of the dilapidated desk chair my boss refuses to replace and hurt my.. Everything! It hurts from wrist to skull, all the way up my right arm. God forbid he have any concern if I am OK. He is a neurologist and deals with work comp patients every day but I seriously doubt he has work comp insurance. Anyway…
I am going back and forth on this week’s Word of the Week. I liked “queer” at the beginning of the week because I was feeling brave and argumentative but I think I may save it for another week. I also like “hyperbole,” “epiphany,” & “epitaph”. I can’t decide which way to go and I haven’t received any feedback or suggestions so I will work it out and post tomorrow as promised.
I do ask for some forgiveness in advance. My boyfriend and I are celebrating our one-year anniversary tonight and have plans to spend some family time with my mom, sister, and nephew in the morning so my post may be brief. Now that’s practicing brevity! Haha!
I have decided to use “epitaph” as this wee’s word of the week. I am just checking in before we make the drive to meet up with my family (while J.T. is in the shower-haha). I still have to finish getting ready and my hand/wrist are really sore right now (from my fall on Thursday). I have a feeling this week’s W.O.W. post will be quite brief if my hand keeps hurting. It’s difficult to type when every muscle from my knuckles to my neck hurts. I will be back later today to post my content. I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. The weather here is a little overcast but I can’t complain. We’re in the low 80’s in AUGUST!!! That’s fairly mild for Southern Illinois. I’ll be back this evening! Enjoy your Saturday!