If Tombstones Could Talk

We all die. The goal isn`t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.  – Chuck Palahnuik

So true …

There is something very important that all humans share, and that is our mortality. Yes, my fellow oxygen suckers, no matter your wealth, talent, or monk-like existence, you will die. At a point in the perhaps not too distant future, we will all die. Expire. Cease to exist. Death is the ultimate equalizer.

I am not usually a morbid person, and I don’t think about dying very much, unlike Woody Allen who obsesses over it. I have lost people close to me. This is always painful, no matter how you appear to be handling the loss on the surface. The cards, scraps of paper on which they wrote, and the faded photographs are mementos I have secretly hoarded, removing them from their hiding places from time to time and running my hand softly across the signature. It is at these private moments that I have wondered how I might be able to leave behind something of value that represents who I was in life.

As writers we are at an advantage in this department. We can write a memoir, story, poem or even a metaphorical obituary to express ourselves. We can leave a rich backlog of work that may make us famous after we die and provide for our loved ones for generations. But, what of those who have no talent or inclination to spend hours creating a comforting memento of a life well spent?

The age of mobile technology has provided a solution. Recently, I was reading a chapter in “The Mobile Wave” by Michael Saylor, Chairman and CEO of MicroStrategy, Inc. My public relations and social media representative suggested that I read the chapter entitled, “The Demise of Paper”. It was fascinating reading, chronicling the written word and the means of information delivery starting with the humble mud tablet, the growth of libraries from the scriptorium to the private libraries of the rich, the current free lending institutions and finally, the Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that can use bar codes and tags to grab information faster than the Dewey Decimal System.

In Finland there is a town where nearly everything is tagged with a bar code. By waving your phone in front a poster, for example, you can get the details of the show you might want to attend at the local theatre that night. You can get the updates to the bus schedule by waving your phone in front of the bar code on a bus advertisement. I imagine this town in Finland with lots of happy people waving their phones and smiling at their friends doing the same smooth wave.

What does any of this have to do with your obituary and leaving a meaningful record of who you were for future generations? This technology has been adapted wherein you can have a barcode installed on your tombstone. The barcode links your physical marker to a “digital tombstone”, and this is where the technology is brilliant. The choice of what the searcher finds is limited only to your creativity. It could be a video, an autobiography, a fond farewell of love and memories, or a stand-up comedy routine. You could pour a beer, sit back in an easy chair, and tell a crazy story from your youth.

Do you think this is morbid? I don’t. I love to think of grandchildren having the ability to scan my tombstone and watch me make red sauce. So many stories, family history, and recipes are lost through the years. This technology could certainly provide a solution.

So go ahead and decide how you want to be remembered by recording or writing your own digital epitaph. Don’t be afraid of facing death like my Uncle Joe, who once said, “Never check the organ donor box on your drivers license. The doctors will let you die so they can harvest your organs”. We don’t know when we will move to the next parallel, we may as well control what we can. And show a bit of style while doing it.

Author: L. A. Lewandowski

Lois Lewandowski graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Political Science and French Literature. A passion for life lived well is reflected in her novels, Born to Die-The Montauk Murders, A Gourmet Demise, and My Gentleman Vampire, giving readers a glimpse into the world of the beau monde. Lois lives in Tampa, Florida. Learn more at her lifestyle blog, and her Amazon author page.

12 thoughts on “If Tombstones Could Talk”

  1. I am not troubled by the inevitability of my own death, and cope very well with other people’s. Leaving behind a posthumous legacy is something I have no interest in, and I’m puzzled by people who do have an interest in it. Can they really lie to themselves that they have survived their own death by having something they wrote read after it? Pfft. As for becoming famous only after you die, having lived your whole life and died in obscurity and poverty, there is no more horrendous way for a writer to be exploited–to have others derive benefit from her work after she is no longer in a position to benefit from it in any way. All such writers really should rise from the grave and sue the rest of us for unjust enrichment, among other things.

  2. Hello Mr. Hermine Strand,
    Thank you so much for your comment. I present this quote as something to think about:

    “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

    It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

    ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

  3. I like the idea, Lois. And I agree with Bradbury. I often wonder what my mother-in-law sounded like when she sang, what my mother’s piano playing sounded like before my father took it away from her. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in a legacy on a grave marker, we could access such things and ‘get to know’ or remember the person we lost.

    1. I wish you had that video of your mom playing the piano. This is what we want to remember about our loved ones-the things that made them uniquely beautiful.
      Thanks for the comments.

  4. Digital tombstone, love the idea. What if a descendant is into writing and goes to visit the grave of you, their great, great aunt and learn about this barcode. What a surprise for the visiting great, great niece to discover some unfinished manuscripts say stored in an online folder that can only be accessed be scanning in the bar code and solving a clue, per se. Oh the possibilities are endless. Oh my gosh, I just got a book idea off this. Great post, LA.

    1. Glad the post inspired you, Jacqueline. I felt the same way when I was reading about putting barcodes on tombstones. I haven’t figured out how to use it yet!
      Thanks for the feedback.

  5. It’s a great idea, Lois. The only flaw I can envision is the rate at which technology surpasses itself. Imagine if someone would have thought of this in the early 1980s — who today could read what was stored then on a 5 1/2-inch floppy disk?

    But I agree that it would be wonderful to store things for our descendants — as long as the data readers of the future are backwards-compatible. 😉

  6. Like a family history stored on an eight-track tape and nothing to play it on? I see your point. 🙂
    I wish I had thought to write down some of the stories from my grandmother. It would be wonderful to hear her voice telling stories about Italy.

  7. Excellent post, Lois. Everyone needs to feel that in some way, irrespective of what beliefs one holds, one’s life (this time around) has not been completely in vain; and regardless of what you say, Hermine, I believe the same would be true for you. I also agree with Jacqueline: what a great idea for a story, or to incorporate into one!

    I can just see it: Lois Lewandowski, the inventive writer who inspired the innovation of the talking tombstone; the Loistone maybe?

    1. Hi T.D.,
      The Loistone-I love it! I can’t take credit for the idea, however. The book mentioned above was highly recommended, and the chapter I read was fascinating.
      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  8. You can also leave a legacy for someone else. I’ve noticed that quite a few of the food recipes I post in my blog came from my mother who died a few years ago. I didn’t deliberately set out to champion her cooking ability but maybe my subconscious did because I don’t actually remember ever thanking her for teaching me to cook. That was just ‘one of those things’ that Mums do.

    I like the fact that her recipes are now slowly spreading across the digital world. She would love that even if she didn’t know how it was being done!

  9. Good evening,
    I also post family recipes, and some that I invent myself, on my blog. Cooking and then sharing the meal is a precious family tradition that spans all cultures. It is wonderful that you are honoring your mother’s memory in this way. I will have to visit your blog and check out some of the recipes.
    Thanks for your comments.

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