In this lesson, we have focused on the idea that you should consider now where you want to be in the future. Steven Covey called it “Beginning with the end in mind.” For this assignment you will write your own epitaph that catches the essence of how you would like to be viewed after you have died. If the final destination in the journey of this life is death, then where we end up at that point is rather important.
Review the beginning of Steven Covey’s excerpt. He talks about going to a funeral, and seeing everyone you know, and then you walk up to the casket and see that it is you in the casket. What I would like you to do with this assignment, is now imagine that you, the person in that casket, will get the opportunity to write your own epitaph.
Then, you will also want to review Edgar Lee Masters’ poems from The Spoon River Anthology, because essentially what you are doing in this assignment is the same thing he did, except yours is more personalized and predictive than his.
This shouldn’t be a terribly hard writing assignment, but I would like you to really consider what you would like to have accomplished by the time you die. As you prepare to write this, keep the following things in mind:
Write it in the first person. Write it as if you were able to speak one more time from the grave.
Be specific and concrete. You may need to make up names for future children or spouses, if you include something about them, but try to avoid being vague. Also, be creative yet realistic.
I suggest you write something about yourself, and then also write something to those who are left behind—a lesson of life you have learned, or something like that.
Whether you want to write it as if it were three years in the future or fifty years is up to you. You choose how far in the future you want it to be. Put the year in which this hypothetical death took place.
Last, I strongly recommend that you create a positive picture of your future. If you have had extremely negative experiences in your life up to now, in your epitaph try to describe how you overcame those negatives, and made your life the way you really would like it to be. Be realistic, but try to be positive.
The following is an example that I wrote to help you see a little better what I expect you to do. Remember to follow the instructions above.
I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.
—Edgar Lee Masters
“George Gray” by Edgar Lee Masters.
I always tried to fit more in a day
than was humanly possible—kind of
like my garden. If I had planted fewer tomatoes
they might have produced better fruit.
Of course, I would rather overextend
myself than sit idle as a T.V. zombie.
And, I can say that my days were not
measured out in episodes of Seinfeld or
squandered with MTV.
I took Ashton and his brothers fishing regularly,
and ate the traditional fruit roll-ups.
It’s good we brought those, because we never
caught many fish. Really though, I always
knew that fishing had nothing to do with
I did not like dance concerts, but I accompanied
AnneMerie to her recitals and enjoyed them.
I was tempted to give my children everything
they and I wanted, but I resisted the urge,
I taught the children the joy of sowing a seed and
reaping the harvest — all by the brow’s sweat.
My dear Julie was equal partner in all things,
even if I was sometimes the weaker half.
Through the pleasure and the pain, I was
grateful for the fellow travelers, and the
opportunity to ride this train.