Your Epitaph

When asked in September of 1941 about how he would like to be memorialized, President Roosevelt told his friend, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, “If any memorial is erected to me, I know exactly what I should like it to be. I should like it to consist of a block about the size of this (putting his hand on his desk) and placed in the center of that green plot in front of the Archives Building. I don’t care what it is made of, whether limestone or granite or whatnot, but I want it plain without any ornamentation, with the simple carving, ‘In Memory of ____’.” So, friends fulfilled his wishes on the 25th anniversary of the 32nd president’s death when a simple granite marker was unveiled on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the Archives lawn in 1960. [photo] 

We know that FDR eventually got something very different! The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial that is spread out over seven and a half acres on the southern side of The Tidal Basin is huge. It was opened in the late 1990s when I was living in Washington DC and quickly became my favorite site in the Capitol City. Today would be an especially gorgeous day to be there because it would be awash in cherry blossoms. No matter the season, be sure to visit the next time you are in DC.  Then, be sure to go to go to the Archives lawn on Pennsylvania Avenue to keep things in perspective!

Did you know that today, Sunday, April 6 is National Epitaph Day? Well, it is! Time to consider what you’d want said about you after it’s all said and done. FDR proves a couple things – what you get may be something very different that what you want, and “memorials” typically say a whole lot more about the people erecting them than about the person being remembered. So, all the more reason to give some thought to those few simple words that would capture your essence for all eternity!

Currently, I expect to be buried in a plot next to my parents in the small Nebraska town where I was conceived but from which we moved nearly 60 years ago. My paternal grandparents are buried nearby. All this is not far from the land homesteaded by my paternal great-grandparents in 1868. Therefore I have thought of engraving the following from the concluding stanzas of T. S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning.

But, that might be construed as ostentatious bordering on the pretentious!

Friends already know that I actually want my epitaph to be He made good soup!  Some think I’m kidding!  Besides costing much less to engrave many few words, I cannot think of a finer compliment for someone to say about another than that!

What are the finest words you will want future generations to say about you?

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