What should your tombstone say?

By David Joel Miller.

How do you want to be remembered?



This question of what we will be leaving behind does not occupy our thoughts very much, especially in our younger years. It is a topic older people think about more even when they may find it difficult to put into words.

When you are gone who will notice? What will they say about you? What do you wish they would say?

I am hoping that none of you are expecting or planning on quitting on life just yet. If you are please talk with someone, there is help available. Look for a suicide prevention line and call it or see a local professional.

One thing I have noticed from working in locked psychiatric facilities, frequently with suicidal people or people who have attempted suicide is that most often those who lived were glad for the second chance.

Those crisis moments when we almost die can put life in perspective. Those who have had near-death experiences describe them with a religious reverence as something which changed their way of seeing the world forever. Do you need to have that near death experience to stop, pause and think about what you want your existence on this planet to have meant?

What really matters to you? What do you want to leave behind?

Some of you, if they were to write your obituary – that piece would read something like

“They had a good time, but didn’t care who they hurt.”  Is that what you would want your obituary to say?

Or how about the person of whom it is said they “they sure were unhappy all the time, it was a downer just being around them.”

One way to gain perspective on your life is to try this simple exercise.

Write your obituary. What has your life been about, where have you traveled and what impact have you had on others. No one is ever to close to the end to rewrite their obituary. You can be that grumpy old person who hates everyone laying there in your bed in the hospital, the one that made life miserable for the staff at the nursing home or you can be the one who always had a smile and a thank you on their lips. You can choose to be miserable or a blessing.

Once you have finished that obituary, pause to reflect on it. What is the one most important thing you have said about you? Condense it down. What is the short sentence they will inscribe on your tombstone?

Now tuck that obit away and work on making the good things in it come true. Use whatever time you have left, a lot or a little, to create those things.

That positive saying for your tombstone, I suggest posting that somewhere where you can see it every day.

Live every day as if this is your last chance to make that saying you want on your tombstone to come true.

What do you want people to say about you when you are gone?

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


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