Now WAIT! Don’t run away. I promise you this is not a depressing, tear-jerker of a blog post. It’s not. There is a perfectly logical and uplifting reason why I am reflecting on my dearly departed dogs. So stick with me. Come on. Suck it up.
Ok. So I started thinking about my dead dogs because they have all been cremated, as I would like to be someday in the incredibly distant future, and I happened to look at their urns today and realized how dusty they were. So I started cleaning them and in doing so I read all of the inscriptions on their urns—you know, their doggy epitaphs.
The tricky part of the epitaph is to come up with one line to summarize an entire life. Just one little line to recap a lifetime of meaning and experience? Whew. Heavy responsibility.
We should all be allowed to hire the guy who came up with all of the Burma-Shave billboards to be our end-of-life copy writer. He’d come up with something memorable. (Ok, I wasn’t around in the 50s either, but anyone who studied advertising in college was introduced to the genius of the Burma Shave Cream billboards. Here…I’ll help you whippersnappers or those who majored in engineering or accounting: http://www.fiftiesweb.com/burma.htm)
Back to my dogs. Here are a few of their epitaphs.
Carter – “Me, Myself and I are all in love with you”
And I was in love with this dog. The words are lyrics from the Billie Holliday song from which Carter’s registered name was born. You see, his dad’s registered name was BISS AM/CAN CH Roadpartner Billie Holiday (all of those letters in front of his name mean he was a champion show dog in the US and Canada). Yes, his dad was named after a female jazz singer. I don’t quite get it either, but his owners were Canadian, so maybe that clears things up a bit. (Oh come on now…I love the Canadians! Our family to the north! I joke. I jest. But seriously, a boy Dalmatian named Billie Holiday?) Anyhow, Me Myself and I was a Billie Holiday song and I used it as Carter’s registered name.
Teddy—“The sweetest dog in the world”
This one needs no explanation, especially if you knew Teddy. Nicknamed Bear, he was a big, huggable Dalmatian guy. I always joked that you could leave Ted alone in a roomful of toddlers for an hour and when you came back, they’d all be cleaner and peacefully napping.
Rascal—“Our Loyal Protector”
And he was. Or so he thought…and I’m sure not going to claim otherwise. More often than not, we were being uproariously protected from, perhaps, a falling leaf or a bird flying by, but in Rascal’s mind he was protecting our fort. In the end, I believe he gave his life protecting the rest of the dogs, so it’s fitting that he be remembered for it. Ok, that’s the only tiny sad moment in the post. I promise.
Clyde—“Happy, Happy, Happy”
It just sums Clyde up. That dog was always happy. Despite a lot of physical issues that probably caused him discomfort, he never failed to greet you with a soft face and a wagging tail. I stole the line from Duck Dynasty…Uncle Si, I believe? It helps set the tone if you repeat it with a good hick accent. Clyde would have wanted it that way.
So anyhow, I’m dusting the dogs’ urns (we have shared our world with a lot of dogs…A LOT. We foster many senior dogs so we have a lot of dearly departed friends here) and I it gives me time to ponder what I hope my last impressions will be someday. Someday in the seriously distant future.
This question pops up on Facebook from time to time and everyone gives pithy answers—more often than not things that I believe family members would NEVER inscribe on the old headstone. This made me curious about some epitaphs that DID make it into granite. Here are a few examples and I know they are real because I found them on the internut (sic) and we all know that everything on the internut is true.
“I told you I was sick!”
In a Georgia cemetery
“Here lies the body
of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.”
Memory of an accident in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery
“That’s all, folks!”
“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”
Winston Churchill (good one, Winston)
So this weekend we are paying homage to one of the most famous deaths in history that turned out to not be a death at all. Well, it was a death, but then it wasn’t. Obviously it’s Easter, so I’m talking about Jesus.
Can you imagine the pressure of trying to come up with a fitting epitaph for God’s son…the man who would be the savior of mankind? Heavy responsibility. I think if Jesus could have directed his own memorial, he would have asked that his stone say something like…
“Stay tuned…I’m just getting started”
“Be right back…Really, I will”
“The best is yet to come…I promise”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got this”
Perhaps it’s clear that I would not have been the appropriate one to memorialize the Chosen One, but truly, my heart is in the right place. I don’t even think the Burma-Shave guy would have been clever enough to sum the gift of Jesus up in one line. Whether you are a Christian or not, you have to admit that Jesus made quite a lasting impression.
So this brings me straight to how I would want to be remembered someday…in the REALLY distant future. And maybe, if I decide what that one-line legacy might be, I can make sure I’m living it now.
The one that always comes to mind is, “That was so much fun! What’s next?”
This one hits home for me. My life is fun and I don’t believe it just ends. I believe there is another crazy adventure after this one. Heaven is paradise, right? So does that mean that God will occasionally let the angels dress up as zombies to chase me around and scare me a bit? I think maybe yes. My God gets me. He really does.
Another that speaks to me is, “One heck of a ride. I’m getting back in line.”
This covers the possibility that I will return in another life form. Just don’t let it be a snail or a slug or something equally slimy.
If we are going to wax poetic, it might be, “All Creatures Great and Small, She Really Did Love Them All.”
And I do. Even the snails and slugs. I was never the kid who poured salt on slugs or fried ants with a magnifying glass on a sunny day. Nope. I take care of God’s creatures to the best of my ability. Unless it’s a really big scary spider and then I call for Jim and I just don’t want to know what happens. (Ok, yes, I might be a bit wimpy when it comes to really big spiders.)
If I’m going to just be brief and let people draw from my epitaph what they will, I think I would like, “She was quick to smile.”
I think that one is a great way to be remembered and I’m going to work to make it so. A smile is a gift…you can lift your own spirits with one, and you give smiles freely to others. (Please note…practice your smile. You don’t want to do the “creepy person standing in a crowded elevator” smile.)
You really never know how a random, sincere smile might make a difference to someone. So if you see me, I’m going to give you a smile. I hope it brightens your day.
Of course none of these lines are going to end up on a gravestone memorializing me because, as I stated earlier, I’m going to be cremated someday in the VERY distant future and I plan for my ashes to be mixed in with the soil at the roots of a very healthy tree. Yes, I shall become one with a tree and I will see the seasons, the sunrises, and the sunsets with birds and squirrels dancing in my branches, bunnies nibbling grass beneath me, horses likely scratching their butts on my trunk, and dogs…well…hiking their legs on me. It’s all good. I’ll also make sure to have one strong arm extending out just right for the best tire swing ever.
That should inspire some smiles right?
But today is Easter and Easter Sunday is about life renewed. So I’m going to get out there to honor this day, honor the life that made it all possible, and yes, I’m going to eat a chocolate bunny.
Thanks for that, Jim. You made me smile.