Two weeks ago I went to visit my father’s grave at the cemetery. It was difficult to comprehend that sixteen years had elapsed since his passing. I paid my respects and then went up the hill to visit my maternal grandmother. It had been almost twenty-two years since she left this earth. I realized that I was becoming a slave to time and a victim of my own impending mortality!
There are quite a number of graves in the tree-lined plot where my loved ones have been returned to the land. I always make a habit of reading the headstones as I walk along. In this concentrated area one can find people who lived as little as one day and as long as one hundred years! Some of the markers simply state a name, birth date, and date of death. Others go to great trouble to extol the virtues and accomplishments of the person lying below. It made me think long and hard about my own life!
Perhaps a hundred years from now, some distant descendent of mine would come across my gravesite. Removed by several generations, they might not be aware of what their great-grandfather had given to this world. It would be fitting to have a brief and tasteful recap of my life, etched into polished granite, for them to read. Then it hit me hard! Just what had I given to this world and what was there left to give?
Several days later I was sitting in front of my laptop. Writer’s block had descended upon me and I was looking for a way to get the creative juices flowing. I reflected on the visit to the graveyard on that cold January morning. My fingers began to fly instinctively across the keyboard. Before I knew it, I had a bullet point list of the accomplishments in my life. At first glance it appeared to be quite an impressive; not bad for a man still in his prime!
The longer I studied the list, the stronger a feeling of hollowness that overcame me. I was no longer relishing in what I had done over the course of fifty years. Rather I was lamenting those things that had yet to be notched into my mortal belt of life. I saved the list of accomplishments onto my hard drive and opened a new document. Without any conscious thought on my part, the following words appeared across the top of the page:
Jerry V. Dollar
1960 – 2061
I have never been one to dwell in the realm of my own successes, and have never felt the urge to boast in front of anybody. Those two simple lines would more than suffice on my tombstone! Still, it all seemed a little two simple and businesslike for my taste. Then it struck me! What I had been able to do in this mortal realm was better suited for my obituary anyway! I reopened the document containing my lifelong achievements. Before long I had whittled three pages of bullets down to one lengthy paragraph! I have to admit, it did not seem like much in its condensed version!
My eyes darted back to the assumed year of death of my mock tombstone inscription. So, I was going to live to the ripe old age of 101! That meant that I had another fifty years to go. In short, I still had a half a lifetime ahead of me. What was I going to accomplish in my remaining allocation of life on this earth?
Returning to my draft obituary, I started a new paragraph. Items like my philanthropic activity, my volunteer efforts, my prolific writing career, and even a recap of my world travels began to appear! I listed the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren that I would leave behind. I spent the better part of entire morning refining what would be the last testament given to the world of why Jerry Dollar had mattered!
Staring into the laptop’s screen, I realized that I had not written a fantasy obituary for the entire world to see. Rather, I had plotted out a roadmap for the rest of my life, to be seen by my eyes only! The things that I had thought would matter to the rest of the world were instead of listing of the items that actually mattered to me in life! I started putting sub-bullets under each of the future accomplishments. Now I was plotting out how I would hit those milestones and by when. I was mapping out the rest of my life!
After another hour or so, the creativity was running rampant in my mind. It was time to return to the passion in my life; writing! Looking at my proposed tombstone inscription one last time, I felt compelled to add a final line.
His greatest success came in giving of himself to the world