If the marquee sign of Lehman Brothers itself was to be buried at Trinity Church–the storied church that resides in concert with a cemetery karmically placed at the end of Wall Street–in memorium of the once venerable Wall Street investment bank’s rapid and tragic collapse, it would have a tombstone that read, at least in part, “aged 158 years.”
At least that is the thought that passed through my head while I was exiting a client meeting the day after my firm filed for bankruptcy. Despite growing up in Manhattan, and passing Trinity Church more times than I care to remember, even before my Wall Street job, for some reason that day (yesterday) was the first time I noticed how charming and peaceful the church and adjoining cemetery really were.
The irony of the fact that Wall Street dead-ends at a church and a cemetery struck my friend and colleague with divine inspiration. However, my laughter was muted as I began to read some of the inscriptions on the tombstones.
The care for which the tombstones were written and most likely hand carved, juxtaposed to the now seeming triviality of having just seen one more US financial institution fail, hit me particularly hard. After all, I had just sat at a conference on investing a week earlier where one of the speakers ended his diatribe with a trite reference to the legacy we are each remembered for as referenced on our own tombstones. Admittedly I have not spent much time in cemeteries, but I quickly felt that the words on those stones were penned in a time filled with much greater humanity and intelligence than we are afforded today.