There comes a day in every person’s life when they have to face the inevitable, one day, they will be little more than food for worms. But this need not be a time for sorrow and somber reflection, but rather an opportunity to plan your last words to the world. This day, Plan Your Own Epitaph Day, is the perfect day to set aside some time to figure out what you’re going to have to say about yourself before you’re gone.
Your Epitaph is going to be that one thing that is remembered forever about you, even by those who never knew you. There have been some great epitaphs written, forever engraved on the stones that stand in graveyards, ancient and recent alike. Some of them are tongue in cheek, like the last words of one Johnny Yeast. “Here lies Johnny Yeast, pardon me for not rising”, while others are representative of the achievements of those who now lie resting. One Ludolph van Ceulen had the first 35 digits of Pi inscribed on his tombstone, as he was the first to calculate this delicious sounding number out to that many decimals.
The nature of one’s Epitaph, and its content, bears careful consideration. It will stay with you for as much of eternity as your headstone survives, and can serve as a warning to those coming down the path to deaths door behind you. Consider such epitaphs as “Consider, friend, as you pass by: As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, you too shall be. Prepare, therefore, to follow me.” Which is found on an old Scottish tombstone.
Some of the activities you can do to celebrate this day, is go to graveyards and look for inspiration in the stones of those who have already passed. Grave rubbings are a pasttime that has been enjoyed for a long time, and this is one more way to collect Epitaphs that have already been written to help inspire you to write yours! One particularly nifty part of this is that grave-rubbings can reveal epitaphs that are otherwise nearly illegible. To participate, you need nothing more than a piece of paper and a piece of charcoal. You place the paper against the surface of the gravestone, and rub the charcoal over it. It will produce a copy of whatever is engraved on the stone that you can take away!
Another thing you can do to celebrate this pasttime is to have picnics in the graveyard with likeminded friends. Together you can sit and brainstorm on what you’d like your final words to the world to be. If you’re one of the lucky ones who lives in the vicinity of a graveyard where the world’s great poets and authors were laid to rest, you could seek inspiration in their final verse.
Plan your own Epitaph day is a day for reflection on our own mortality, and thinking forward to what kind of legacy we want to leave behind for those who come after us. While we will live on in the minds of our family and friends, the story of who we are will only be told to strangers in our final message to the world, left engraved in the marble tablet of our headstone. So take some time to think about where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and what you’d like to say to those who come after, and start taking strides to make sure your Epitaph is worth reading!