Smile

I had the pleasure recently of meeting two of the brightest and most love inspiring souls imaginable at work. The kind of people you don’t just “happen” to meet. An experience in itself I could rant on about for hours, however one of them posed a question to me that’s stuck with me since… The kind of question that spurs you to rethink just what you’re doing with your life.. Where your focus, your energy lies.

“If you could only have one word on your grave, what would it be?”

I’d like to say that those words hit with ballistic impact. As heavy as a blacksmith’s hammer strikes his battered anvil. 


Truth is, I was working, and at the same time half tripping down a step and in turn giving my cardiovascular system a surprise high intensity interval session… However the more I thought, and continue to think about that question, the heavier it grows on me. Not so much the blacksmith’s hammer, but the bellows, that gently fuel that crackling, raging furnace.

One word… One word…

In the end I cheated and picked 4 words, the title of this blog. Slow down, Look up… Fitting for the feel of my workmanship and philosophy to my work, but on my gravestone? Hardly so.

One of the first words that swung through my head was ‘humble’.

Humility is a virtue we should all strive for. Shoot down ego and pride when they rear their ghastly foul heads and overcome them with immense love and compassion.

How noble! How ironic.

‘Always’.

Sorry Snape. Romantic sure… In life we often like to think of things as absolute, infinite. Our lives and moments enduring always… But as an epitaph? Ehhh… The irony! Seems like a cute idea at first, until you picture someone reading it, and the “Ha!” escaping their mouth.

‘Always’ is probably in the same category as Forever or Alive. Comforting sentiments perhaps, but after a while a sore reminder of the finite, fleeting nature of our fragile existence. Perhaps a word along those lines, yet with slightly less depressing connotations would be…

‘Free.’

Rather than denouncing the fact that all things come to end - revile in it. Accept and embrace it. No longer bound to the grievances and pain this world is clouded by, instead freed from them. The thought of freedom makes me picture the thoughts and words of Marcus Aurelius. Looking up at the stars, and seeing yourself running with them. Forever free from the unbearable lightness of being. (Good book by the way!)

Wait a minute though… What made that person’s life so painful and unbearable that their final desire was to be free from it all?

Bah. Back to square one we go.

How about ‘Loved’?

Common sure, but for good reason! Love is EVERYTHING. The Universe is better by it. Giving love, feeling love, the only thing that ever had and ever will matter, is love! Now we’re getting somewhere!

But the tense bugs me. Love-d. Hmm. It shouldn’t bug me but it does. It’s finite, it ends. It screams “once upon a time”.

Loved, but soon forgotten. Dark, depressing and pessimistic thoughts I know… 

Hmm. Too much weight, but I’ll keep it on the short list.

Speaking of weight, how about ‘light’? Light… Not just in weight, but actual life giving Light itself. Images of sunlight comes to mind… Autumn leaves in the gentle breeze. A feather, floating though the air. Death always seems so dark and heavy, so why not leave a mark that instills uplifting brightness in whoever reads it? Rays of enlightening joy. (Haaaaa!)

Connotations of freedom come to mind, minus the irony that comes with the word ‘free’.

What I like most about this word is that it tells people that “Yes, death is dark. It’s sad and depressing. But it’s okay. I’m gone, and that’s okay”. It’s different to the other words because rather than being a reflection on the life that was, it’s a big shove forward. It spurs people to move and not become stagnant, stuck in the cycle of grief.

In fact I think I like that as the purpose of my epitaph… Not a word to commemorate or somehow describe me. You can’t fit someone’s entire life and their impact on this world in a single word. You never will be able to! Rather I’d want a word that continues to work. A word that keeps making ripples.

‘Smile’

Ah. That’s better. Doesn’t that feel nice?

A word that doesn’t exactly focus on me, nor my passing, but rather even IN my passing continuing to effect those that come by me. Telling them to simply just smile! Shit happens, and that’s okay. Things will fade. Possessions will fade. People will fade. Lives will fade. Even memories will fade.

So I’d like to have a word that fights that. A word that triumphs over the dismal melancholy that clouds around death, and instead arms people with the simplest and oldest way of fighting sadness.

A smile.

Go, smile.

In the beautiful words of Terry Pratchett,

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in this world die away…”

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