“We’re All Stories in the End”

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St. Paul’s, Oswego, NY; © Tara C. Trapani

This is one of my very favorite quotes from Doctor Who (I suppose the fact that I not only have a favorite Doctor Who quote, but multiples, is letting my geek show through a bit!). The first time I read this to my husband, he found it profoundly depressing, which came as a real surprise to me. As a very in-the-moment kind of person, he saw it as a sad testament to the fleeting nature of life–an unpleasant reminder of his own mortality. His perception, once again, served as tangible reminder of how different each of us really is!

For upon hearing this line for the first time, my heart leapt. For me, it meant hope. Whether we are affluent or destitute, a businessman or a bricklayer, we are all just stories in the end–the ultimate equalizer. And we all have the same chance for our stories to live on. A wealthy man or woman may have the means to make sure their name appears on a building that stands long after their death. But unless their story is one worth telling and retelling, their name will merely remain lifeless letters in stone.

On difficult days, I often turn to the company of the dead for comfort–they’re a surprisingly encouraging lot. Wandering through the headstones on this lint-grey damp April day, I read each name and calculate their lifespan: 46–just 2 years older than myself; 89, a pretty good run; only 8 years old, never having had a chance to make a mark on the world. I long to know their stories. I long to ask each one, what would you like us to know? What lay undone at the end of your life? What legacy–what story–do you wish you’d left behind?

The legacy we leave the world can take so many forms–concrete, tangible items such as buildings and bridges; creative works–written, visual, musical, and more; genealogical history, life narratives, and family trees that we hand down to future generations–the great gift of knowing from where and from who we came.

And then there is another kind of kind of legacy–the life we live and how we live it. Have we lived our days to the fullest–followed our dreams, even if we failed time and time again. Have we spent our days and nights brimming over with love for life, for others, for the journey itself? These are the tales worth telling. The buildings and bridges will someday crumble to dust, but the stories will live on.

So please, write and record your story, research your personal and ancestral history, but more importantly, live a life worth remembering–a tale worth telling through the ages. In the wise words of the mysterious man from Gallifrey “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”*

 

*Doctor Who. “The Big Bang.” Directed by Toby Haynes. Written by Steven Moffat. BBC. Original air date 26 June 2010.