“Í don’t know what one puts on a stone when it’s murder…Can’t very well say ‘entered into rest’ or anything like that. One will have to choose a text—something appropriate. R.I.P.? No, that’s only for Catholics.”
“O Lord, thou has seen my wrongs. Judge thou my case,” murmured Mr. Entwhistle.
I have never really thought about what I want on my headstone. Is this the sort of thing I should be pondering? Janet would insist that this is precisely the sort of thing I should not be pondering. Indeed, if I ever start a conversation with Janet with, “I was thinking about this today…” she could instantly reply that whatever comes next is surely not worthy of any attention, let alone the attention I gave it during the day. Nevertheless, I persist in pondering such things. In this case, I am not pondering what I would want on my headstone but whether I should be thinking about what I want on my headstone. (Truth be told, I have never really even thought about whether I want a headstone in the first place. But, let’s just pretend that question has been answered in the affirmative.)
On the one hand, I think I probably shouldn’t care what is on my headstone because, not to mince words, I’ll never actually see or read said headstone. On the other hand, said headstone will be the only permanent record of the fact that I have whiled away a few years in this Vale of Tears, and surely I should care about my Permanent Record. Moreover, if I don’t think about this question now, then I am leaving it to my heirs to make this permanent decision at a time when they are (presumably (hopefully?)) in grief. Surely, I shouldn’t impose that burden on them. Then again, is it really a burden on them since there is no chance that I will ever express disapproval of whatever choice they have made? And come to think of it, should I or the people who survive me decide on the content of my headstone? After all, they are the ones who will read it, they are the ones who will use it as a Stone of Remembrance, so shouldn't they decide on the content? Until now, I must admit, I have given this matter shockingly little thought. And I still don’t know the answer. I don’t really care about my headstone, but now I am wondering if I should care.
The quotation above is from (in case it isn’t obvious—maybe it is a famous quotation and you already know where it is from. Oh dear. What if that quotation is as famous as “to be or not to be,” and I am the only one on the planet who had never heard it before? I guess I could check the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations to see if it is in there, but I am now afraid to do so in case it is in there and I was supposed to know it was in there.)—the quotation is from Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral. The quotation has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the plot, by the way. It just strikes me as strange bit. I had no idea, for example, that RIP was Catholic; then again, maybe it isn’t—I am not sure a character in an Agatha Christie book is necessarily a reliable source of information. Even still, I never would have made the R.I.P.-Catholic association.
I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie before now. But, until writing this blog post about a random quotation from the book, I have never really associated Agatha Christie with actual life and death. Her books are so obviously fiction. Why? What does an Agatha Christie novel not seem more realistic than some sort of fantasy novel with sorcery and monsters? It must be something to do with the constraints of the Whodunit genre. To work, a Christie novel must have a confined feel; the murderer can’t show up out of the blue as someone we haven’t met earlier in the novel. So, there must always be a limited number of people involved in the story. And, then not only the murderer, but also assorted others must have some motive for actually murdering the deceased. And on top of that, at least some of the non-murderers must have an unrelated secret which gives them an excuse for doing suspicious things. And, when I compare all that to real life, I realize I have never been in a situation in my life with such tightly defined intrigue and back-story. I suspect if I was ever in a remote country home with 8 other people and someone was murdered and the murder must have been done by one of the remaining 7 people, it would take all of about 30 seconds to figure out who the murderer must be.
Maybe all this is obvious to everyone, but I have never once thought about any of this before. Which may explain why I never thought about my headstone either. With all the Agatha Christie I have read, why have I never imagined being the victim of a murder or an even suspect in a murder case? Instead, I read Christie and think of it as a nice little intellectual puzzle—one that you can’t really solve, but it sure feels like you could solve. That is what makes them fun. If this was real, it wouldn’t be quite so much fun would it?
To return to my headstone. How about this? I’d like the Raiders shield with the guy with the eyepatch and the crossed swords behind him on my headstone. It’s like a skull and cross-bones, so it sort of fits in a graveyard. And that way when people see my headstone they will be reminded that something about which I dearly care survives me. The Raiders will be here for a long time, too. So, even after everyone I know is gone, people can still think fondly about the Raiders.. So how about:
Your Humble Narrator
11/24/66 – [insert date]
Requiescat In Pace
Survived by the Raiders
[Insert Raiders logo]
Is that a good headstone?