About Epitaphs

The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without.”
-Elbert Hubbard

Two weeks ago, I went to visit the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. My interest in going there was to go visit Oscar Wilde’s tomb. In truth, this cemetery is known for many other celebrities who are buried there as well, such as Honoré de Balzac, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison. The cemetery is also known for several memorials designed to commemorate the French army in different events of French history; there is even a memorial for the Tutsi victims of the Rwanda genocide which took place in 1994.

As my friend and I were walking by all those tombstones, a question came to her mind: “How do cemeteries make you feel whenever you come to one?”

I have to admit that she caught me off guard with her question, as I had never thought of it at all; let alone from  any particular angle. It took me a while to wrap my head around that question, and even longer to actually be able to formulate a plausible and slightly logical answer; because, truth be told, I have three different reactions whenever I go to a cemetery.

The main one – which will be the one discussed here – connects me to the thought that for me, the cemetery is the wealthiest place in the world.

Yes, the cemetery. Let that thought sink in for a moment. Not China, not Dubai or any other place where we measure wealth with money, power and influence. In order to explain my point of view on that, I will make reference to a special quote by Steve Jobs.

“To be the richest man in the cemetery does not matter to me. Going to bed saying we have done something beautiful, that is what matters to me.”

Such a quote is not something you will never hear again from people living in a cemetery, and here is why: in a cemetery, if one looks closer, one can find ideas never expressed, inventions never invented, songs never sung, and, books never written. The people who lay there, with all those amazing ideas and thoughts, were sometimes too scared to pursue their dreams; to take a risk. As Oscar Wilde so wittingly puts it: 

“All of us are in the gutter, but some of us are still looking at the stars.”

Well, WE are not in the cemetery… yet…. Why then do we stay in our comfort zone, are risk aversive, too ‘realistic’? 

We have the inner energy and intelligence that could allow each one of us to shoot for the moon at any given moment; yet, we do not pull the trigger. We allow fear to come in and walk us through this life.

We were born to make the most of this life – of the gifts we were given; to reach for the stars while enjoying the littlest of things; to tell people we love them; to make our dreams come true; to do what we love… Life is short, that is true, and it gets even shorter when we decide to stay in our comfort zone, by the hearth of our fears and insecurities. It is only once we step out of the comfort zone that the magic truly begins.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people simply exist.”

-Oscar Wilde

That is what I feel whenever I enter cemeteries and walk around those people at rest. I can almost  hear the stories they could tell if they had just not given in to their fears.

So tell me, how do cemeteries make you feel?

“With shortness of breath, I will explain the infinite: how rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.”

-Sleeping At Last’s Saturn

9 thoughts on “About Epitaphs

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