Wisdom from the Epitaphs
Every once in a while I find myself wandering into a cemetery.
DC is littered with them. Every few blocks, a gate springs up protecting the resting place of 19th and 20th century doctors, politicians, and pioneers who were among the first to build up this city and nation.
When I was younger, I was completely terrified by cemeteries. It wasn’t until this last year that I have come to find peace within them. No, I’m not a Wednesday Addams-type. I’m no fan of horror movies or the macabre. But I do think we need to think about death more.
Everything in our lives carries so much weight. The unbearable stresses of each day make us manic and then are forgotten a week later. We focus on the minute and the minuscule – in our suffering, in the way that people are unfair, in the prayers that aren’t being answered as we’d like – and forget the big. Death comes for all of us.
Walking around these cemeteries has taught me a lot. Most importantly, it has taught me that when you go – no matter how rich or accomplished or beloved you are – your life gets summed up in a few words on a rock. Reading the epitaphs in these cemeteries has provided perspective and vision for my own life I couldn’t have found elsewhere.
One that I stumbled upon this past week read:
Faithful, Courageous, True.
A friend to all children.
A servant of the Lord.
Wow. Is there anything more beautiful than these simple words? To live a life faithful, courageous, and true. To be a friend to all. To serve the Lord.
It says nothing of the dinner parties she hosted, famous guests hailing from all over the East Coast. It fails to mention the size of her bank account. It doesn’t allude to any earthly successes – only the ones glorified in heaven and reflected in her actions on earth.
Last week I hosted a mission statement workshop, and it’s now hitting me that a lot of our mission statements could pass as epitaphs. How can you live your life so that your loved ones put that mission statement on your headstone? Where can you grow, how can you serve the Lord more truly?
This is not our home. Like we see in today’s Gospel, earthly success doesn’t matter in the end. What DOES matter are our epitaph virtues; to be “faithful, courageous, and true.” The first shall be last, the last first. Let us go and be servants of the Lord.
- Did you miss the Mission Statement Workshop? You can view the replay here and access the free worksheet here. I love seeing your mission statements – please keep sharing!
What we’re loving lately (on the blog and beyond!)
- If you’re getting as tired of cooking and eating as I am, change it up with my favorite TJ’s condiment. I put this on everything – avocado toast, pasta, eggs, chicken, pizza, bagels – literally it’s on at least 2 of my meals each day. Cannot recommend enough!
Benadryl Mosquito Bite Cream
- I have 142 mosquito bites on my legs. Maybe nature was telling me to stay inside and quarantine? Maybe I was bathed in that oil Carole Baskin covered Joe Exotic with to attract the tigers (except for mosquitoes)? All I know is that I’m itchy as all heck and Benadryl mosquito bite cream has brought me back to life. And if you’re near me and smell something awful, it’s most definitely the bug spray in which I’m bathing myself anytime I leave my house.
1 Peter 5:6-11
- Wow, open your scriptures and just read it. God promises to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us through our suffering. I hope this encourages you like it has for me!
What’s going on this week? w/ Gabriela R.A. Doyle
- July 31 is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Read his 14 rules for spiritual discernment. They take up about a page and a half, but they’re chock full of wisdom. They explain spiritual consolation and desolation in a way that’s easy to understand, with practical rules to follow (Pro tip: Evil spirits are attention hogs and will stop bothering you if you don’t pay attention to them, just like ignoring bullies on the playground). For a good overview, listen to Blessed is She’s podcast, The Gathering Place, Episode 74.
That’s it for this week. God bless you – get out there and be bold in your life!
This piece first appeared in The SundayMonday Tuesday Newsletter. Subscribe below!
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Jane Kennedy lives in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and works in criminal justice reform. When she’s not working or writing, she’s probably catching up with friends on FaceTime, getting lost in Rock Creek Park, quoting C.S. Lewis, or trying to recreate Salt and Straw ice cream at home.