A Million Epitaphs

[Word count: 702. Approximate read time: 3 minutes]

I’m not afraid of death. I’m aware of it. We see each other in the hallways as we take care of our dealings; I with mine, he with his. One might suppose I have faith that God is in control, or I might feel the need to run and hide from death. As of late though, it seems I am very much a fatalist.

I don’t believe death and I will embrace until the precise moment God has prescribed. So if we graze each other in passing, it’s just a graze. I’ve got my misgivings about dying, but death doesn’t worry me much. Death has been a part of my life since it began.

“For all we know
This may only be a dream
We come and we go
Like the ripples of a stream
So love me tonight
tomorrow was made for some
tomorrow may never come
for all we know.”

An uncommon story

My father and I never met. But we have the same name. First, middle, last. Most people probably don’t know exactly when they were conceived, but I do.  July 25, 1978, the morning he died. My mother did not know she was pregnant at the funeral. The date engraved on his headstone marked the end of his life, and the start of mine.

Because my story is familiar to me, I have to remind myself that it’s not common to most. Such slim chances surrounded the circumstance of my conception, that there must be some significance, some intent to it. I am a miracle. A miracle doesn’t necessarily have to be impossible; highly improbable counts too. What is a miracle but something that, to the amazement of those who look on, happens despite the toughest odds stacked against it?

God must have wanted me here, baton-in-hand, running forward at full speed toward who-knows-what. Had he changed a factor or two, I would not have come together. This indicates that I have a purpose. I’m actively pursuing it, even while I try to find out exactly what it is.

Priorities straightened

At age 26, my father probably took no thought to dying young. It had never happened in our family. He set a precedent. In doing that, he gave me a gift. The gift is that I could grow up knowing life is not permanent, neither is anything in it. Some people never understand this until they experience profound loss decades into adulthood. I, however, arrived with the bulk of this work already done.

When you’re aware how fragile life is—it could end at any moment—you don’t waste time on things that don’t matter. You’re more likely to forgive debts and offenses, prioritize a little more efficiently, and only devote time, resources, and attention to things that really matter, things that are central to your purpose.

Famous last words

And if today were my very last day, I think I would conduct it differently. The thought of my time being up sobers me. It makes me want to tie up loose ends, finish undone projects, focus a little tighter. It makes me want life insurance just in case.

Before his untimely death at age 44, rapper Heavy D’s last tweet was this: “BE INSPIRED,” which lent a noble, salutary air to his passing. In press releases and somber news announcements, “BE INSPIRED” became his epitaph. Every moment is one of millions. I need to be filling each moment with something that would represent me well if it had to be my last.

epitaph (n)
1. a commemorative inscription on a tombstone or monument
2. a speech or written passage composed in commemoration of a dead person
3. a final judgment on a person or thing

I’m here, but I don’t know for how long. If I live for 80 years, that’s about 42 million minutes. 42 million possibilities for anything to happen.

I fancy imagining how long it might be, but the main goal in life is to focus on doing what matters. Today. Right now. It’s like a game of musical chairs or freeze tag. Run and dance your way through it. Have fun. You never know when the leader’s gonna call a halt to everything.


[Written 9/29/2012 5:45pm, Revised 5/30/2013]

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