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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Gravestone Story: What Will They Say About You?

I have a little thing about cemeteries, I guess. I like them. I read something once about a young woman hiding in a cemetery because she felt safe there--and when you get over the scary-movie factor, that seems to make sense to me.

I guess I married the right person because my husband likes cemeteries, too. We've sometimes joked about where we want to be buried and what we'd like our gravestones to say. He talks about saying "One Who Laughs" on his stone; I haven't really decided about mine.

Being a writer, in this case, doesn't really help because gravestones are all about brevity. I love the old style of "Beloved Husband, Wife, Mother" but I really think one or two words that describe who I am would make me happier (alive or dead).

Obituaries tell people what we did, but gravestones should tell people who we are. Or were. There are a lot of fancy words for writing and a whole mess of terms: playwright, author, novelist, etc.

I don't much like any of them and I'm not sure they really describe what I like to do.

But there is a word I do like and one that is essentially the reason I get up in the morning. It's about telling stories that share the worlds of people I know, or make up, or want to know. And it's about how those stories grow and change.

As a past performer in the Renaissance Faire, I mostly told stories to kids and adults and that was how people knew me. Now I think it was the best way to describe who I've become.

Because stories have weight, and at the same time lightness. Because they flow like rivers through our lives and can change everything in an instant--and then change it back again. Because we can live without a lot of things, but I honestly don't think most of us can live without stories that give us hope or mirror our struggles or make us see things in ways we hadn't thought about before.

So.

If we're ordering up gravestones, that's what I want on mine, just so you know. My name and one simple word:

Storyteller.

Statue by Corinna Knepper Troth
Photo: Jenna Zark