I recently read the novel, The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide, which came to me with mildly good reviews. It is a 2007 novel by an Australian about a woman dying of cancer, who is writing a household help book on the subject of dying. Not usually a humourous topic, but the main character had an admirably pragmatic and whimsical attitude. She was a fan of English literature and mentioned the English metaphysical poet from the 1600s, Andrew Marvell – in particular, quoting from the poem “To His Coy Mistress.”
I was thrilled. Months after my father died, when we were just about to give up on agreeing on an epitaph for his gravestone, I found a scrap of paper in his wallet with 4 lines of that Marvell poem in my father’s handwriting. The four lines he wrote were:
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
We used just the last two lines – here is a photo of the gravestone we finally got made.
It was nice to think that someone wandering through the graveyard might recognize the quotation.
That was the intent – to inscribe something that represented him, that would later be compatible with Mom.
But we also wanted to stimulate someone, sometime, to notice it and wonder about the occupant of the grave.
If that writer ever happens to walk through Dad’s graveyard, she will appreciate it.