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.

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