Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Six-Word Memoir

An interesting article appeared in USA Today on December 3, 2008 reviewing the book Not Quite What I Was Planning by HarperCollins Publishers. The book is a compilation of dozens of “six word memoirs”, where various people (some famous, some not) try to sum up their lives in only six words (punctuation is free). It’s an interesting exercise in prioritization and reflection.

Here are some thoughtful samples:

“Followed yellow brick road. Disappointment ensued.” – Kelsey Ochs

“On the playground, alone. 1970, today.” –
Charles Warren

“I wrote it all down somewhere.” – Ben Greenman

There are also some humorous attempts:

“Well, I thought it was funny.” – Stephen Colbert

“Maybe you had to be there.” – Roy Blount, Jr.

“Never really finished anything, except cake.” – Carletta Perkins

And some optimistic viewpoints:

“Many risky mistakes, very few regrets.” – Richard Schnedl

“Secret of life: Marry an Italian.” – Nora Ephron

“Outcast. Picked last. Surprised them all.” – Rachel Pine

The whole exercise got me to thinking – what instructions or observations would I leave to my children if I knew that I would be passing on tomorrow? If it were my last breath and I only had a short phrase to leave them, what would it be?



First, (and this is really against the grain of my personality), I would have to forego any attempt to write a humorous epitaph. While humor would be a temptation, the gravity of the situation demands that I use the moment to educate and edify my children. Second, the message needs to be pretty simple, but important. Six words are not enough to fully describe any single topic, so it pays to be economical and direct with the phrasing.

And third, the memoir should have lasting impact on their lives – in fact, I believe it should have an eternal effect. These would be my last words, after all, and they should count for as much as possible. What’s more important than advice about the best way to spend eternity?

Since it’s my blog, I’m allowing myself eighteen words – three six-word epitaphs. I’m hopeful that I’ll have some time left to choose between them, but if I don’t, I trust my lovely wife Wendy to pick the best one. Here goes – if I had to leave a meaningful memoir for my children, it might be:

“God holds truth. Don’t get distracted.”

Or maybe: “Seek Jesus first. All else follows.”

Or perhaps the ultimate parting words are: “Go to heaven. See you there.”

Give it a try. For anyone reading this, please post a comment with your own six-word memoir.