Last Words

2 min
at 10:43 PM

Stephanie Rapp lost her father. Now that he is gone, she struggles with how to memorialize his memory.

My father was a wordsmith, who had great dexterity with language. He was a copywriter for much of his life, coming up with witty turns of phrase to sell a variety of products. What he really wanted to be was a comedy writer for the great TV shows of the 1950’s and ‘60’s, like Sid Caesar or the Smothers Brothers. But by the time he turned 29, he had three toddlers to provide for. So he used language in its most pedestrian way, to sell kitty litter to the masses. He’s been gone two years and I miss his encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture.

How do we mark the passing of someone we love? My twin sister’s ashes are still in a cardboard box, under my desk. I see them every day, and always say a quick hello. My sister was more cluttered than I am, so I know she’d appreciate that her ashes are not stored in a fine vase on the mantel but instead on the floor next to an old iPhone box.

I have been struggling with how to memorialize my dad. Jewish tradition gives us a year to unveil a tombstone – I’ve run past that but my dad was a first-class procrastinator. He would totally understand my extending the deadline. To my dad, a deadline was a dare, evidenced by his famous all-night tax marathons on April 14th. I’m flummoxed about what to write on his tombstone. I’m torn between the standard “beloved father and husband” or something punchier. When we honor the dead, do we think about them, hovering over our shoulders, and look for their approval? Or do we think about ourselves, the ones left behind, and select something that has meaning to us?

I think I may have found the best way to honor my dad, who, like me, was an avid Marx Brothers fan. His tombstone will be the one bearing the words of the immortal Groucho: “Hello, I Must Be Going.”

Sponsored

With a Perspective, I’m Stephanie Rapp.

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Stephanie Rapp works in philanthropy in San Francisco.

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