Intimations of mortality

Perhaps because of the death of so many friends this year, it’s a subject I’ve been thinking about, “not to dwell on, just to wonder.*” It’s been the subject of an earlier posting, in which I confessed myself to be undecided about the arrangements I want for my own mortal remains when the time comes.

Last week, in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, I had my own personal epiphany, and I’ve made my mind up.

We didn’t go looking for the graves of the rich and/or famous, and we didn’t see any. The tombs and memorials we saw bore names that meant nothing to me, and that was what crystallised my feelings. Walking along the ‘streets’ and alleyways of this city of the dead, it came to me that I don’t want that; I don’t want to be memorialised in this way. I should have trusted my Zen instincts all along, that when I was considering burials and headstones for myself that was an ego-trap. It seems obvious now. I will leave nothing behind, as I brought nothing when I came into the world, and as I’ve tried to tread lightly on it throughout. Not that I’m anticipating departing any time soon – I hope there’s many a good year ahead – but I can write my instructions now.

* From the poem Day Tripper, recently accepted for Envoi.


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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7 Responses to Intimations of mortality

  1. Tommaso Gervasutti says:

    Dear Colin, for some reason reading this latest post of yours a poem came instantaneously to my mind, by probably the greatest poetess ever, I don’t want to type it all until the end, it’s short anyway, and I’m sure you know it:Not knowing when the dawn will comeI open every door….Best wishes, Davide

  2. Colin Will says:

    Ah yes, Davide, Emily Dickinson, one of my favourite poets.Colin (heading off to Elgin)

  3. Rachel Fox says:

    I know what you mean but I would have to question your ‘I will leave nothing behind’…maybe not a grave stone but what about the children, the poems, the touching other people’s lives….could be long list!x

  4. Tommaso Gervasutti says:

    And I regognize dear Colin the perfect Zen spirit “I will leave nothing behind…” something reminding me of the memorable Paul Reps’ book Zen Flesh Zen Bones…

  5. shug says:

    Aye, connected to what Rachel was saying, you have a legacy whether you like it or not. When my mum died she was cremated and we scattered the ashes in Mull- all very spiritual, appropriate etc etc, but I wish I had a focus now, a grave, a plaque, a tablet or whatever, somewhere specific to go.

  6. hope says:

    Colin, your thoughts reminded me of my Dad. He had an incurable cancer and made me promise that I’d only put up a modest headstone. {My mother-in-law went overboard in that area and Dad didn’t want anything so attention getting}. I know everyone grieves in their own way. To me, the cemetery was a place to confirm information during genealogy research and I didn’t seem to have the gene that others in my family had to “just go visit”. Dad knew that, which he worked into his other request of me. Being a Christian, he believed his remains were just that, an empty shell. His exact words were, “Once you plant me, you don’t need to come back to visit. I won’t be there anyway.” Maybe I should add we had the same sense of humor. 🙂Knowing I did what HE wanted was comforting in itself. Making your family aware of your wishes now will allow them to remember you as the wonderful, loving man in their life and not as a hunk of stone….many, MANY years from now. 😉

  7. Colin Will says:

    Thanks for the comments. I suspect I’ll return to the subject at some point, but not for a while!

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