There is nothing more devastating than death. Humans are social creatures, driven by their need to connect with others, and when that connection is irrevocably broken, the pain that it leaves behind seems like it will never go away. The death of a loved often puts you in touch with emotions and thoughts that don’t normally come to mind. While we’re all aware of our mortality, the reality that we all will someday die, we often live as if we’ll live forever. The death of a loved shatters that illusion, if only for a little while. We come face-to-face with questions that we normally try to keep buried deep inside. These are questions about the value of our lives up to the present moment. If you were to die today, how many regrets would you have about the way you’ve lived your life? Would you be proud of the way you lived your life? Would those you love have any doubt in your death that you genuinely loved them in your life?
You may only live once, but the prospect of impending death makes you really start thinking about the quality of the one life you live. The way death impacts us is part of social psychology.
Living in Memory
An interesting dynamic occurs when someone you love dies. While their physical presence is gone, they live on in your memory. In a way, they are memorialized in the minds of those who loved them most while they were living. A memorial is a way to capture forever the things that a person will be remembered for the most after they die. It captures the way they lived, the lessons they learned, and, tragically, the lessons they didn’t learn that those after them should. Funerals, headstones, and other physical memorials often have memorial quotes that are meant to sum up something important about the life of the person who died. Many times they are famous quotes about remembrance, and many times something important about living can be learned in the memorial quotes that people choose to mark the remembrance of someone they love.
Memorial Quotes and the Lessons We Can Learn from Them
If memorial quotes are a great way to capture an important element of someone’s life, such as how they lived and what we should imitate from their life, then we don’t even need someone to pass away before we start learning from those who have put some important thoughts of remembrance into words. Below are several memorial quotes and some thoughts on what they teach us about living, and sometimes about dying.
William Shakespeare – “The evil that men do”
In Shakespeare’s famous play, Julius Caesar, there is an important line spoken by Anthony in response to Caesar’s burial that captures well the idea of remembrance after someone dies.
“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”
The idea that Shakespeare captures here is that the bad things that people do often stand out more than the good things that they do. If you’ve spent your life taking advantage of other people, then that is how people will remember you. Most people want to be remembered well after they die. They want to be remembered for all of the great things that they did. The unfortunate thing is that people don’t often live their lives consciously considering the legacy they are creating for themselves when they are gone. If you live your life as a terrible person, you can’t expect people to think highly of you when they’re gathered together for your funeral, if people are gathered together to remember you at all. The lesson to be learned from this quote is that life should be lived in doing good for others, and when you develop a reputation for doing good rather than evil, you will be remembered for the good that you’ve done when you’re gone. Check out this course for more information on the life Julius Caesar.
John Adams – “Grief…softens the heart”
The death of a loved one brings emotional pain unlike any we could ever experience, and though we consider this pain a great evil that we would wish to be rid of, John Adams, the second president of the United States of America, captured something important that we can learn from the pain in the following quote.
“Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart.”
An interesting quirk about human beings is the often relentless drive to live as if they are invincible. Of course, when it comes down to it, we know we’re not, but we often refuse to face the most difficult questions of life because we fear the answers we might find. Adams saw that grief strips us away of this need to pretend that death isn’t a very real prospect for all of us. When someone we love dies, however, death becomes less of an abstraction and more of a concrete reality. Grief tends to force us to face ourselves and answer the most difficult questions about life. When people truly enter into the type of “serious reflection” that John Adams talks about in this quote, they’re often driven to live their lives differently because, suddenly, the way they live today matters into the future. It matters even after they’re gone because their memory will live on. As Shakespeare has already pointed out, we can choose to live a life we’ll be proud of people to remember us by or one that leaves us feeling ashamed.
Abraham Lincoln – “The life in your years”
Abraham Lincoln was a man that knew hardship for much of his life, and yet and persevered to become one the most remembered government leaders in history. Lincoln once said something that sums up what it means to live and make the most out of the life you’ve been given.
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
Lincoln was capturing the idea that there is no guarantee that anyone will live a long life, and living a long life doesn’t really matter if you do nothing of lasting significance with the years you’ve been given. Knowing that you’re not guaranteed to wake up and live another day should drive you to live a life of significance with each day you’re given on this earth.
Memorial quotes serve to help people reevaluate their lives and make decisions on who they want to be and what they want to be remembered for. This course will help you to gain better control over the quality of your life. Furthermore, the course on The Art of Meaning will help you to take steps in your life to counteract the greatest regret dying people often have.