Saturday, June 06, 2009

My Epitaph

I am part of a group of men who meet once a month to hold each other accountable for the way we live our lives. And the question we were asked this morning was: “What do you want written on your tombstone – and what do you not want to have written?”

As I reflected on my life I realised that I have always been a responsible person.
It was drummed into me from small: “be responsible for your sister; think carefully before you commit to something, because you will be held responsible for your actions; go and study because you are responsible for your career; choose a job that has a pension and a medical aid, because you are responsible for your old age; take political responsibility for your country; take religious responsibility for your church…….. ”

Now this is the stuff of a successful life: everyone from my generation received this information – from parents, from teachers, from the very air that we breathed. We Baby Boomers are put together like this. And have this written on our consciences: “We are responsible for this mess….” But I no longer want this epitaph. I am tired of being responsible. I am tired of taking up causes. I am tired of feeling the weight of doing the right thing.

I want to be remembered for living adventurously. Oh Yes - there have been the moments when the adventure breaks through: like the time I took the family on a two month trip as far as the northern Uganda border; like the time I asked to live and work in a cultural environment different from the one I grew up in; like the motorcycle trips and the camping trips; But underneath it all lies the sense of “being responsible”. I feel responsible for my children’s education; for encouraging my wife’s failing health; for keeping my church solvent; for living an exemplary life; and for encouraging other people to keep going. And somewhere this crushes my spirit. Something has got to give.

So watch this space?
I really do not know. I will always act responsibly…. It is my nature. But I am determined to begin to shed those things that prevent me from living with more curiosity. I want to be more adventurous, more inquisitive, and far less sure of what each day brings. For example - inside of me is a writer struggling to get out. But this is always overshadowed by life’s duties. I am determined to allow the writing to break free, even if this means being irresponsible. For example - inside of me is a creative, non-conformist. But this is crushed by the tasks of authority and seniority. I am determined to shed the shackles of institutional expectations and allow the anarchic spirit of God free reign.


Wessel Bentley said...

May I dare write an epitaph for you?

Pete Grassow

Born Peter S, but known as Pete.
A man who knew life as he was familiar with the hiddenness of God.
May more people walk this path.

Anonymous said...

Pete, thanks for your honesty. As I was reading your thoughts, I felt a kindred spirit with you. I am not sure that I want to hear God say to me, "Well done my good and faithful servant" only in the context of being responsible. I want to hear Him say that in the context of having lived my life well - to the full and having felt the breath of God on my face daily.
About the writing thing - I think that your gifts are clearly evident in this field. Having tried my hand at it, with 'Living Oceans Apart' I realised that I had to overcome some of my own fears and insecurities, whilst I was writing. The other thing, was that I realised that no one else was going to create opportunities for me to write - I had to fight for fractions of time that I found. It is also true that writing is often 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.
I wish you well with your dreams and look forward to reading your work.
Thanks for your inspiration.

Steve Hayes said...

Perhaps your blog can be your epitaph. It will probably say more about you than anything written in stone, including this post.

Beryl Donkin said...

Way to go, Pete! Cut free of the generational, cultural expectations that have squeezed you into their mold.

barbara said...

Once again, I'm trying to play catch-up with your posts. I love this one! You echo my feelings! I can't wait to see what happens next...