Looking Back

Pat Paddock

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

in toto.

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

the hereafter.


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

Coastline Pilot.