Not to be unduly morbid, but have you ever thought what words you
would like on your tombstone?
I hadn’t either until a news item mentioned the subject. It concerned
some individual who had dictated a few well-chosen words about his
desired phrase of remembrance on that monument to his passage.
My preference is to end as ashes in the sea. In such case any musing
by and for me is moot. However there is a vacancy in the family plot
where Dorothy would like to ultimately rejoin her departed family. She
has offered me the opportunity to meld into the group as well. Ashes, or
That’s a tough one to pass up because her grandfather bought a 12-site
special at Glendale’s Forest Lawn in 1916. Cost: about $80.00 for the
dozen. Thus my spot would come to a prepaid $6.67, can’t even rent a
rowboat to cast remains for that. Unlike some people, I’m very vague on
Being pretty practical, it has to be seen or felt before I worry. My
past has not been planned in any way. It just happened. The same can be
said of whatever future remains. Do what is asked, better than expected,
has been my motto. It got us back to Laguna.
More than a few words on a tombstone are needed to capsulize one’s
life. How we conduct our daily lives is what matters. Unless one is truly
great, all memories disappear after a generation or two anyhow. Trying to
recall any immortal acts of mine is a total blank.
Is the world any better from my passage? I doubt it. Is it going to be
any better because of any future actions of mine? Even more doubtful.
Does it worry me? Nah.
Somewhere in the past I saw a collection of burial blurbs that was
published. Unfortunately none remain in mind. But there were some pretty
cute ones. The whole matter is not of great import, because there are no
obvious markers permitted in Forest Lawn. Just tasteful small tablets set
in the surrounding well-tailored lawn.
Whether any of these have words, other than names and dates, I don’t
recall, and am not going to make an extra trip to find out. The whole
matter of what actions are appropriate in observing ones final passage
has been strongly affected by my paternal grandfather’s funeral.
Grampa Paddock was a lovable old man with a generous, friendly,
mustache. Tall, slim and erect, he was always neatly dressed in suit,
vest and a fully, woolly, upper lip. When he passed away in his 90s, Aunt
Eva, his exceedingly prim, bossy, and only daughter, insisted on an open
coffin funeral. Nothing is recalled of that occasion except the final
viewing. As I passed by the bier, there lay Grampa in his white satin
cocoon, sporting a pencil thin mustache. He looked like Adolphe Menjou.
Though I was married and no kid at the time, it was a shock. That
image still supplants the other warm ones, and cannot be erased. In no
way, am I belittling the loss of a loved one, only saying that care
should be used in its treatment by those left behind.
When maternal grandmother passed away, all I recall is a tearful
neighbor laying a Gardenia on the coffin with a whispered, “Goodbye Mrs.
Parke.” I puddled up, and still do. If final words need engraving in
stone, mine would be, “G’bye.”
* PAT PADDOCK is a Laguna Beach resident and contributor to the