Have you considered how you'd like to be remembered after you're gone? This week, my college prep seniors read and studied "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," a poem that focuses on the lives that normal people led as the speaker strolls through a small, country cemetery. It ends with an epitaph of the original speaker, so I often ask students to write an epitaph for themselves or for a loved one who has already died. For many students, this is a challenging activity since it incorporates both the poetic expectations/requirements that we've been studying this year and a personal element that might include either fear (at their own mortality) or grief (at the mortality of a loved one). I do think it's an important assignment since it forces them to consider if the lives they're leading are ones that are indeed memorable and if their choices are accurately reflecting who they want to be.
Here is the assignment I gave them today: You are asked to write your
epitaph--an original expression of no more than 50 words, that reflects your
view of life and that would be engraved in stone as a marker of your death and
life. You will be evaluated on the originality of the epitaph, the quality/depth of
meaning, and the graphical (artistic) form of presentation. You may wish to
rhyme, but it is not required. You may also wish to use various poetic literary
elements like metaphor or personification. Be careful to correct your work for
errors before submitting it tomorrow, 2/26/15.
Interestingly enough, I've been personally impacted by two deaths this week of people I didn't even know. How is that possible, you might ask. Well, it involves the deaths of two people close to my age who were important to people that I do know well. I won't go into details here, but suffice it to say that I have been giving quite a bit of thought this week to my own mortality. Since I assigned the epitaph to my students and since I've been thinking about my own mortality, I thought it might be useful or illuminating or meaningful to create my own epitaph and share it with you. While it definitely still needs work - this is a first draft - I'm happy with what I've written so far. I exceeded the 50 word limit, but that won't surprise y'all. I seem to have a lot to say in general. :)
Here lies a woman you thought you knew,
who wandered through life with more laughter than grace,
who saw herself critically through the eyes of others,
whose existence engraved itself in the hearts of her friends and the lines on her face.
She lived life with the depth of a saint and the breadth of the damned,
unapologetically and undeniably both in a single breath.
She was a thinker, a maker, a mother, and a dreamer
whose impact will not be dimmed by the dark flower of death.
She lived her truth, ever striving for authenticity
in a world that judges others with impunity.
This woman traveled and learned and loved and gave little
pieces of her heart to her family and community.