Thinking about what to put on your tombstone is a pretty macabre subject for a Wednesday morning (as I write this). But, of course, death is always with us. And religious figures and theologians for millennia would remind us, a powerful way to live in the present is to think about how our lives would look in the finality of death — to see the present in terms of the end.

So, with that in mind, I submit this pithy, thoughtful, and profound way of thinking about one’s life and one’s death as the end to some vast and intentional thing — the grave of Russian composer Alfred Snittke.

There’s a lot of interesting musical specifics going on here. For one thing, there is no time signature nor are there measures. But the rest that appears here is a whole rest — the largest span of silent time possible to denote. But then, on top of that, there is a fermata (the half-eyeball-looking thing above the staff) which signals that the rest will be held indefinitely until the conductor stops the music. And perhaps most profoundly, this rest has been given a note about how it should be held, which is as a rest observed fortississimo. Not simply loud, or double loud, but triple loud. This is a rest that thunders.

It’s a beautiful thing to signal the close to a life — a life that, by implication, was a grand symphony of many movements, brought to a profound close that reverberates even in stone.

Dr. Georgia is the D.R.E. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland, OH.

Dr. Georgia is the D.R.E. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland, OH.