I was thinking of my epitaph this morning, after reading the colophon of a book I love. It struck me how different my epitaph would be, if it said “He died,” with the addition of one word: “And.”
Both are good epitaphs, I suppose; they communicate the essential information.
When I die, I will be dead: “He died” is appropriate, final, and enough.
But how much greater would it be, for the me who will no longer exist, for my epitaph to be “And he died”? It implies that there was more: I lived, perhaps I loved, perhaps I did… such that my death will have been the period at the end of a life’s sentence.
I don’t think I’m afraid of death. I’ve seen it too much to appreciate its rarity for each life. My own recent brush with death was amusing in how nearly trivial it was, and the primary anecdote from it was from deep within a morphine fugue; no profound utterances from the World to Come from me… just something humorous about a whale.
But what I am afraid of is having something ungiven. I want my cup to be empty when I die. I want to be able to say “It is complete.” I want the choice to add or ignore the “and” to my epitaph to be deliberate.