Visiting My Own Grave

When my husband died, we did not have a cemetery plot. After all, we were young and not expecting to die yet. And now here I was without a clue about what to do. My family, being the practical people we are, met together and decided that we would all buy plots next to each other at the cemetery in my home town, where my parents still live. Not only that, but we also bought the stones all at once and had them installed. All our gravestones are in the cemetery with our names and birth dates. 

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

The only thing missing is our death dates. 

I recently stopped there on the way to my parents’ house.  It’s a strange thing – visiting your own grave stone. There’s something funny, and also sobering about it. Someday there will be another date on that stone, and a dash representing the life I lived. I don’t know when that will be. Prematurely, as in the case of my husband, or a very long time from now. I don’t know what twists and turns my life will take between now and when I reach the end of my dash. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have guessed that I would be standing in a cemetery visiting a gravestone with my husband’s and my names on it. I didn’t know that I would get sick, blow up my life, and start over. I hadn’t experienced the depths of grief and pain, or the joy of transformation forged out of the refiner’s fire.

As I stood there, I thought about the dramatic possibilities. Some kind of television series – like a dramedy. Each week a person sees his or her own grave, but doesn’t know when they will die. It shocks them into changing their lives. Some people decide to do all kinds of crazy things they never dared do before, and others lead a life of incredible service and purpose.

That got me thinking. What do I really want to make sure I do before I die? Who do I want to be? Does my life and the choices I make each day, reflect that? If I had a short time to live, would I make the same choices? Visiting your own grave is a really good reminder that we do not get out of this life alive. As I thought about that, I realized again that what really matters to me is sewing into people’s lives. Although I love to accomplish things, as my #1 strength in Strengths Finders is Achiever, what is more important is the relationships I have with my family and friends, and those with whom I am privileged to work. Sharing our joys and sorrows, trials and triumphs.

What about you? Do you know what you want to do before you die? Who you want to be? What is most important to you? Does your life reflect that? Do you take time to reflect on your dreams, goals, and values and evaluate your actions and decisions against those values? It is so important that we take time for this type of assessment. Life is so short. When we are kids we think it takes forever. Then we blink and we are 50. Blink again and we are older. Don’t drift through life. Live it on purpose. Don’t let fear hold you back. Live full out.

Question: How have you used the days you’ve already been alive? What do you want to make sure you do before you die? What are doing to get there? To comment, click here.


If you would like some help living the life you were meant to live, here are two resources:

Fully Alive – a book By Ken Davis about living a healthy and full-out life.

Best Year Ever – an on-line course on setting goals that can galvanize your 2015. It starts in December, and is offered by Michael Hyatt.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Rich Berning

    Beautiful post, Kathleen! It got me thinking about the dash, the little horizontal line between those dates on our gravestones. I read a wonderful piece about it somewhere, that what really matters is what that little dash represents in our life. Live our life to our fullest potential, and maybe that dash can be made big and bold to represent all the life we lived between those dates! Thank you for writing from such a deep personal place in your heart.

    • Kathleen Thompson

      Indeed, Rich. We do want to make that dash as big and beautiful as we can. What do you want your dash to look like, and is there anything you think you might change to make that dash bigger and bolder?