One Night, One Day, One Month

Photos by Marylin Warner

(Photos by Marylin Warner)








Comedienne Rita Rudner once quipped, “All my life, my parents said, ‘Never take candy from strangers.’ And then they dressed me up and said, ‘Now go beg for it.”

Halloween. When we dress up to be someone else and go trick’o’treating. One night, the last night of October, is about dressing up, playing pranks, and getting goodies.

 church window  All Saint’s Day on November 1st, and All Soul’s Day on November 2nd are for honoring saintly people of the past and praying for the souls of those who’ve gone before us. In churches and cemeteries and homes, these days are for remembering others.

November 2nd is also one day for us to think about our own lives…and how we want to be remembered after we die. Nov. 2nd is PLAN YOUR EPITAPH DAY.

angel marker

During the early stages of my mother’s dementia, we took long drives together when I visited her each month. I’ve written about the ways we created story and poem ideas during those rides, but there’s something else we did. We sometimes visited cemeteries. On nice days we’d walk in the sunshine at one of the local cemeteries, read tombstones and pay our respects. One tombstone was my mother’s favorite, and mine as well.

It’s a wide, marble, double headstone: the wife’s full name and dates of birth and death are on side of the carved heart; the husband’s full name and dates are on the other. The husband outlived his wife by many years. On the back of the marble headstone are two carved hearts intertwined. Below are two girls’ first and middle names, but only one date ~ the same date of death as their mother’s death. Below the girls’ names is this epitaph: “They took their first breaths with God.” At this headstone we paused and prayed for the mother who died with her still-born daughters, and the father who lost them all.

Planning our epitaphs isn’t about deciding what will be set in stone after we die. It’s one day when we think how we want to be remembered, and in doing so, consider how we’re living our lives.

The entire month of November is LIFEWRITING MONTH. This is the month to take notes, to write essays, stories, poems (or paint pictures and organize photographs) of our lives or the lives of those we love, and events, people and places we want to remember.

If these November Days seem heavy-handed, realize that it’s also PICTURE BOOK MONTH, NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH, PEANUT BUTTER LOVERS MONTH, and NATIONAL SLEEP COMFORT MONTH. That’s just to name a few; there are many other choices. Depending where you live, the month of November might be a darker, colder month when trees lose their leaves and it’s more likely to sleet or snow than to rain, but it’s certainly not a month with nothing to do.

Computer, typewriter, pencil and paper, crayons or chalk: look at all the November writing activities.

Computer, typewriter, pencil and paper, crayons or chalk: look at all the November Days to express yourself.






Filed under autumn lessons, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, life questions, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Spiritual connections, writing

43 responses to “One Night, One Day, One Month

  1. Claudia

    November is a month of transition for me. Autumn is not quite gone; winter not quite here. It is a winding down, preparing month for those long winter months of hiberation after full summer days and glorious harvest celebrations. I love November as the whole month means Thanksgiving to me. Of course, pilgrims and pumpkin pies lack the wholesale commercialism that Christmas has become. Right now our weather is a wee bit too chilly and damp, feels like winter, but next week we should get some Indian summer in the first week of November!

    • As you know, I grew up in southeast Kansas, Claudia, so I know very well the weather (and its beauty) you describe. And Colorado’s November weather is actually very similar. Pikes Peak has snow, and for the last few days we’ve been really cold and bracing ourselves for a full-blown cold front. But Halloween is predicted to be warm again, plus by January we will probably have golfers waiting in line to tee off. Colorado gets a lot of sunshine, but we can also have some 2-3-day icy zingers.

  2. My husband loves peanut butter all year long. I go for the Natinal Sleep Comfort Month because I just got a new mattress and pillow.
    I love the cemetery in my village in Germany. I read the headstones and try to remember some of the people and I visit the grave of my mom and dad. It is a very peaceful and tranquil place.
    Happy Halloween Marylin

    • How you feel about the cemetery in your German village, Gerlinde, is very much how I feel about the small town Kansas cemetery where my dad is buried, and where my mom will be buried next to him when the time comes. There’s something peaceful for me, walking around the headstones and recognizing the names of so many people I knew. I remember so many good memories on those walks.

  3. Hi Marylin,
    I love November. My birthday is November 21 and this year we’ve been invited to a wedding. This is the first time I can ever remember going to a wedding on my birthday.
    The story of the tombstone is very touching and poignant. There is a cemetary close to my house where I walk sometimes. I like to read the stones as well. Some of them are very old and it’s interesting to see how tombstones have changed over the years in style and design. 🙂
    Have a happy Halloween!
    xo Joanne

    • And happy birthday to you on Nov. 21st at the wedding, Joanne. I hope you get to celebrate before, during and after the wedding, and feel your own love and celebration of your life. You can at least go back for more wedding cake and claim it for your birthday!
      Children’s headstones–and the touching messages in their honor–are so touching for me. Burying a child has to be the most heartbreaking thing for any parent.

  4. juliabarrett

    Peanut butter and sleep. A good month. And Rita Rudner. Thanks for that laugh out loud memory. I am a big fan of old cemeteries. Love the cemeteries in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where all my ancestors are buried. Plus one of the cemeteries there has The Black Angel. Worth the visit.

    • The Black Angel in a Council Bluffs cemetery? Wow. I hope you’ll write about it sometime in your blog, Julia. I probably won’t get to Iowa in the near future, but I’d love to learn more.
      Rita Rudner’s quote about Halloween is one of my all-time favorites. Another general kid quote is “We spend all this time teaching little ones to walk and talk. And then when they master it, we tell them to sit down and shut up.”
      No wonder kids (and us when we were kids) are so confused. 😉

  5. calvin

    Cemeteries, truly can be a touching and intimate diary of life’s struggles and joys.

    Honestly, am not certain how I wish to be remembered. Now that you have me thinking about the prospect, I guess I rather it be something I created and not me personally. And then I think, in the end we leave it to others to decide the merits of our existence. We are after all, a work in progress.

    Oh, and I do love love love peanut butter. And I believe I have Life Writing and Photo Book Months covered, at least in my mind.

    • You always give me something to consider, Calvin, and this comment is true to form. “…leave it to other to decide the merits of our existence…we are, after all, a work in progress.” Wow. Well written. Thank you.
      You deserve a major peanut butter feast!

  6. Good reminders and information. It’s also the month of my birthday, so always a special time to start anew. Love this post. 🙂

  7. Gosh, with all of the NaNoWriMo hype during the month of November, I’ve never heard of LIFEWRITING MONTH, Marylin. It sounds so peaceful. I might have to give it a try.
    I laughed at, “Don’t take candy from strangers…now beg.” I don’t think I ever questioned it as a child. 🙂

    • It’s one of my favorite Rudner quotes, and of course she delivered it with such classic style that it was a hoot, Jill. I’ve never done the NaNoWriMo, but I use the Lifewriting all through the year. Writing about my mom, remembering for my grandchildren the things my mom can’t remember herself, is one way I Lifewrite. And that continually reveals memories for me to record about myself, too.

  8. Just today a friend asked, “Have you ever written about the Revolutionary War cemetery on the edge of your grandma’s property?” I had to say “No” except in reference to the fact that it was close by our berry-picking patch as children.

    Your post made me think I need to explore deeper. In fact, your posts always make me think. Thank you for this special one, Marylin!

  9. Oh, Marian, I do hope you’ll explore deeper. It sounds like the cemetery at the edge of your grandmother’s property would be a special place to explore and discover…more than just berries, though I never underestimate the wonderfulness of berries! 🙂

  10. I always liked cemeteries.When a lot younger and working in a store I used to take my lunch and sit in the local cemetery to eat (weather permitting).
    November is busy month for Anniversaries and birthdays starting on 1st with my wedding anniversary and the 3rd my brother’s. This year it’s his Silver Wedding so special celebrations in hand.
    xxx Sending Gigantic Hugs Marylin xxx

    • I wish you many happy Anniversary Memories tomorrow, David, and a lovely time celebrating the Silver with your brother.
      When I was in college, for the first year after her husband died, every day regardless of the weather, an older woman took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the cemetery and had lunch with him. She talked to him, ate half the sandwich and left half for him at the base of his headstone. At the end of the year she had celebrated every special day with him. She planted flowers at the base and scattered shelled peanuts so squirrels would stop by. It was her way of mourning and also celebrating their life together.

  11. Also November is the month to get ready for Christmas!!

    • Ohh, no. Christmas is just around the corner, isn’t it, Darlene? But this year, for the first time in 4 years, we’ll have a Colorado Thanksgiving here with our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, so we’ll enjoy that first and THEN start planning for Christmas! 🙂

  12. A beautiful post, Marylin. That epitath is beautiful and very sad. Nov. 2nd was my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 96 on Monday. My birthday is this month as well as our youngest daughter’s. So while memories of a cold and snowy November may linger, so does the joy surrounding those birthdays and Thanksgiving. 😉

    • How wonderful you’ll have many wonderful memory celebrations of your dad, Judy, as well as birthday celebrations for your youngest daughter and yourself. And Thanksgiving, too! This is your special month!

  13. Marylin, loved the girls’ names is this epitaph: “They took their first breaths with God.” 🙂

    • Every time I think of that headstone, with the mother’s and stillborn daughters’ date of death begin the same date, it reminds me how fragile and precious life is, Tracy. And how my mom put out her hand to the headstone and said a prayer. She hoped all three were buried together, with the mother holding her babies, taking care of them even in death.

  14. A famous or infamous British comedian had as his epitaph: I told them I was ill. I’ve never been one for Halloween but I do like Guy Fawkes night but that’s very British. Remember remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot… 😊

  15. Jim

    Very moving post, Marylin, as we approach All Souls Day. It is difficult to imagine the pain of the husband/father who lost his wife and twins in childbirth. Although distant from the event, I wish to add my small prayer for him and for the souls of his dear ones. Indeed this blog entry rightly challenges all of us to reflect on the gift of life and how we are using it.

    • It was many years ago when Mom and I discovered this family headstone, honey, and even at this distance I remember the sad, touching prayers we gave. Especially for the husband/father. The mother was with their babies, but he was all alone. From his name on his side of the headstone, I don’t think he ever remarried.

  16. Peanut butter month? I can live with that! I remember making chicken in a peanut butter sauce once. Yes, even that was good!

  17. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Hope you had a BOO-tiful weekend! 🙂

    • Boo-tiful for sure, Nancy. We had 66 trick’o’treaters, and one of my favorites was a 14-year-old girl dressed as Flo from the insurance company on TV. She was a perfect match, and as she took candy for her apron pocket, she said, “Would you like me to compare your insurance rates?” She was a hoot! 🙂

  18. Well I wll be the curmudgeon this week.
    It will be a tough month: I can’t stand the smell of peanut butter and I lie awake trying to think about what to write.

    Maybe an epitaph could be ” nithing more to say and finally, a good night’s sleep”

  19. Ooooh…National Sleep Comfort Month. I really like the sound of that 😀 I like this time of year as I feel I can justify all the time I’m indoors typing away instead of feeling I need to be outside in the nice weather! A great excuse to get on with all those ‘lifewriting’ tasks. I’m sticking to my revisions and so glad for this opporunity. I remember you sharing your story with me about the family buried together, so moving…And I love the Rita Rudner quote. So true! Have a great week dear Marylin, I hope your writing is going well this month 🙂

  20. National Sleep Comfort Month does sound wonderful, doesn’t it? Especially with all you’re doing now, Sherri. You are so busy with your writing. I love your “change” for this month, the NaNoReViSo, month to revise, and rewrite instead of writing an entire new novel in a month. What a great plan! 😉

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