Friday, June 25, 2010

How do you want to be remembered?

The other day I went out to a historic little cemetary not far from us to take take some photos.  I know that sounds morbid, but it really wasn't!  I didn't take any good pictures though as I became fascinated with the old headstones and the things people had engraved on them, and spent most of my time just reading the headstones.

There was one that was absolutely heartbreaking.  This is all it said.  No explanation.  No dates.  The simplicity of it conveys its absolute tragedy:

But that isn't the one that stayed with me the most.

This one is:

Look at that inscription!

I have suffered.


Imagine suffering so much that that is how you would want to be remembered.  I'm really curious to find out what happened in his life.  Maybe things were so awful that he was completely justified in writing that?

Do you think of yourself as someone who has suffered, or is suffering?  I don't usually think of myself that way, although I suspect other people may.  Whenever the topic of 'suffering' comes up at church or bible study, people often look to me to see what I think.  They obviously think of me as someone who 'has suffered'.

Even if in other people's eyes I am someone who 'has suffered', it is not how I would want to be remembered.  I don't want this situation (our suffering apparently) to be the defining thing in my life.  I don't want people to think of me and think of suffering.

If people do think of suffering when they think of me I would rather they think of persevering through suffering.  Or remaining positive in spite of suffering (I can hear all my friends who know what a pessimistic realist I am laughing out loud at this point).

I don't know, I think I'm rambling.  For some reason that headstone has stuck with me.  Imagine being so consumed with your suffering that you felt that was all you had to say at the end of your life.  That there was nothing else to you or your life's work.

I don't want to be that person, who can only see their own suffering, and is so consumed by it that it defines them.  What is the key do you think?  How do you not become that person?  For me I think the key is perspective.

Yes, my life is more difficult than a lot of my friends, but, really, all my children are alive.  We live in a nice area of Sydney.  We have food on the table and a roof over our heads.  We have PLUMBING.  Compared to a lot of people, I am not suffering.

Seeing that headstone really made me think.  It made me think about how I see myself, about how others might see me, but mainly it made me think about how I want to live.


Sarah said...

Cemetaries are very intresting.

Emily begged me to take her to one about 2 years ago and after looking at all the headstones, she decided to place some flowers on a little girls who passed away at 6 year old.

I see you as "strong" even though you personally may not feel it at times, that is what I see.

I don't think I would like to be remembered as that headstone...suffering, I would prefer something more positive or even simpler like the first headstone...just a name etc.

Big brother, Little sister. said...

alison what a beautifully written post. very thought provoking and honest. I understand that look/feeling of the whole suffering thing but maybe from where I come from I don't ever see that of parents with children with disabilities because I see the light, I see the strength, the passion, the will, the humour and the way it changes you for the better xo

Territory Mom said...

I love old cemeteries or any cemetery, they are peaceful to me.
I think of you as couragous. People say oh you have such a burden, they don't understand that what a burden is. It can be a good thing that makes you a better person. I wish I had all the answers but the only thing I do is just try to smile in public and I pray alot. I used to cry alot but now I don't have time.

Anna said...

I have to admit I really like walking around cemetaries. So much history and sadness, yet there is also the legacy of how you want to be remembered.

I have to say that I don't see suffering as a bad thing neccessarily. The way I look at it is that you need to experience suffering in your life, otherwise how can you appreciate the good things? Through having a child with a disability, I have suffered unimaginable pain in my heart as I watch my son physically suffering. Yet, I have also experienced and appreciated the purest of love and joy because I know that together we have risen above that suffering and gotten through it.

Does that make sense?

Great post!

Alison said...

Thanks for your replies. I agree that sometimes other people can only see the 'burdensome' side of disability, whereas when you're in it you can also see the joy that comes from it.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who quite likes a day out at the cemetary!!