What Will Your Epitaph Say? What Are Your Famous Last Words?
James L. Casale
Do you have an epitaph in mind? Do you care how you will be remembered? There are many notable epitaphs. Dozens of books have been written about someone’s “famous last words.” I discovered my new and favorite epitaph in the summer of 2021 at the guard gate to my sister’s complex in Rye, New York.
Before that date, I was thinking about two possibilities: “I’m coming back as a singer” and “My last great adventure.” Before I reveal my new famous last words and the story behind them, I’ll share some from people you may remember.
- Floyd Patterson: “A champion always”
- Betty Hutton: “Loved by all”
- Dean Martin: “Everybody loves somebody sometime”
- Marco P. Bisceglia: “It’s all about the dash”
- Gracie Allen and George Burns: “Together again”
- Robert Frost: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world”
- Betty Davis: “I did it the hard way”
- Alexander the Great: “A tomb now suffices him for whom the world was not enough”
- Edgar Allen Poe: “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore’”
- Frank Sinatra: “The best is yet to come”
Some Funny Ones
- Shit happens.
- I told you my feet were killing me.
- There goes the neighborhood.
My New Epitaph and My Story
Each year at various times I visit my sweet, kind, caring, and generous sister, Stephanie, who resides in Rye, New York. Two cherished events in the summer of 2021 required my presence in my hometown area. The first event was the wedding of my great-niece, Sarah. The second event was a hometown (Harrison, New York) book signing I attended with two other authors who wrote books about growing up in Harrison in the 1950s, Anthony Matero and Gene Westmorland. When I visit the area, I usually stay with my sister.
I have visited Stephanie so many times over the years that I became acquainted with the gate attendant, Henry (not his real name), at her gated complex located on Long Island Sound.
Since I have not matured, I am still a smart-ass wise guy and former Harrison High School “Class Wit” who still tries to get a rise out of people, even strangers, by saying something to get their attention. Some of my classic silly lines include: “Are you having fun yet?” “Do you think it will warm up?” (when it’s already 90 degrees out). When someone asks me how I’m doing, my response is usually, “I am old, tired, and cranky.” But, over the years, I could never get a rise out of Henry, no matter what I said. Henry puts a capital “S” on stoic.
He is the king of laid-backness. He is tall, lanky, and moves sloth-like from his chair to the opening in the gatehouse and greets me as if he never saw me before. He is all business as he records your license plate number and opens the gate. No words are spoken. That changed dramatically as I greeted him in July 2021.
My opening impertinent quips were, “Henry, are you still here? You have been here since the ark. Do you remember me?”
Then the earth shook, dark clouds appeared, accompanied by thunder and lightning as he rose from his chair, ambled toward me, and uttered my new epitaph without the slightest emotion. “You’re hard to forget.” I hurried to my sister’s co-op and when she opened the door, I asked her for a pencil and paper and started writing the notes for this story. I saved the notes and didn’t write this until June 2022.
Post Script: I visited my sister again in June 2022 and the unthinkable happened. I greeted Henry with one of my usual silly remarks, “I can’t believe you’re still here.” (I neglected to mention that Henry is a little long in the tooth.) He said, “I won’t be here much longer. I am getting old.” And then he smiled! I did it! I made him smile after all these years. In my lifetime—whatever is left of it—Henry will be hard to forget.
Dr. Casale blogs at www.theparentsolutions.com. He is the author of three parenting books, a family cookbook, and two memoirs. Visit his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088BDC7P1