When our parents died, my siblings and I had so much to say about them that we packed their gravestone with imagery—mountains, books, flowers, verses.

They were born and raised in Colorado, which explains the mountains, which they loved. Both were readers, therefore the books. They grew and enjoyed beautiful flowers, hence the posies. And, each day when my dad went to work at the steel mill, my mom kissed him and said, “God be with you ‘til we meet again.” That, of course, was on the stone.

I am impressed with the stone carver for packing this all into a nicely designed marker.

But the fact was that we could not encapsulate Mom and Dad’s lives into one simple image. There was too much of them, too much to say.

What do you think your kids would say on your stone? What would you want them to say? Thinking of your life this way makes you focus on the real meaning of what you have done, of what you will leave behind when you die. And, yes, you will eventually die. Cancer makes us think more about our eventual death, but people without cancer die too. We might just be a little more aware of that possibility.

So, what would your stone say?

I have no idea what my kids might say about me. I remember when Josh was in the second grade and I was going to teach a class about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at his school. One of his classmates asked what I was like, and he said, “She’s funny.” That always makes me smile—that my sweet little seven-year-old liked that I was funny. I would like to think I am more than that at this point, but I am not entirely sure what it might be. I had not expected him to say I was funny then, so I don’t know what to expect now.

What would I want to say about myself, though? Perhaps that I made a difference, that I was a force for good. That is a goal, one that I can keep my eye on, aspire to, hope for, live by.

It’s a challenging exercise, forcing you to assess where you have been and where you would like to be, who you are and who you would want to be.

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