“Gravedigger, when you dig my grave,
Could you make it shallow,
So that I can feel the rain?”
– Dave Matthews, “Gravedigger”
The chorus of this Dave Matthews Band song is powerful, especially in his live performance of it on the 2009 Europe Tour. It’s particularly moving because of the context. The song’s verses tell of people’s lives in a somewhat obituary-like form, telling their names and their birth and death dates, followed by a brief description of something from their lives. I think sometimes of what mine would look like. How would a snapshot of my life read if I only had one verse of this song to express it in? How would I want to be remembered? How would people remember me despite that? Would I be a blogger? A climber? A soldier? A disabled Veteran? A mental patient with PTSD? A car accident victim? A success? A failure? A disappointment? An achiever? Or would an obituary even be written?
I saw an obituary for a young man of 36 years the other day in the newspaper that listed him as a suicide in the first sentence. I thought it was rather insensitive of the family and perhaps disrespectful to the deceased. Why do I feel that way? Because there was a life there, not just a death. They could have honored their loved one instead of just highlighting his death. That’s why I like the song “Gravedigger”. The verses, though short, tell a robust story of several lives from one perspective or another. Though tragic that they may have died young, old, and in-between, their lives were sung about, rather than their deaths. So what will my obituary look like? It’s a real question. How will I be remembered? Or will my life be remembered at all? How will you be remembered? Do you live in such a way as to be remembered?
And for the obituary-writers out there, please remember that the person you’re writing the obit about had a life, however short and however troubled. They had value. Honor that.