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The Art of the Epitaph
By E. Emil Andersen

For as long as there has been gravestones and grave markers there has been epitaphs. Epitaph comes from the Greek word epi-taphios which literally translated means "on the gravestone". In other words anything goes. In the early days the pilgrims would generally put a name and a date on or near the burial site. Romans would taunt people by referencing their own mortality. Today's epitaphs have become more of an art form, requiring a certain amount of attention and skill. I believe that an epitaph should be closer to a premise line of a person or pets life.

Perhaps that is why many people choose to write their own epitaphs. They want to make sure it reflects their values and beliefs. If you are one of those people then this blog is not intended for you. This is intended for those who are charged with the task of writing an epitaph for your lost love. Having to come up with a line or two that encompasses all that the person meant to you is a daunting task, especially when you are grieving their loss.

Here are some suggestions that should help you write a more personal and meaningful epitaph.

How do you want to remember that person?

Take time to meditate on this question, get in a quiet spot and think about that person. Contact other friends and family members. We are all as individual as snowflakes, the more personal the better.

Write down words that remind you of that person, it doesn't matter what, anything that would describe what that person was and what they meant to you. Did they have a nickname? Where were they from? Did they have any physical attributes? Were they an athlete, or did they have any limitations? What were their professional and personal accomplishments? What did they like to do? Where did they spend their time? What were their priorities?

What sort of leisure activities did they enjoy? Did they have lots of friends? Did they have a good sense of humor? What did they take pride in? Who are they most missed by? What's not the same without them? How will they be remembered?

If all else fails and you still can't up with a line or two to personally describe your loved one's life, you can still fall back upon some tried and true epitaphs. For example:

The kiss of sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One's nearer God's heart in a garden,
Than anywhere else on earth.

Perhaps something more comforting like "Gone but not Forgotten" or "In Loving Memory of". You could use a quote such as "Tears are often the telescope by which men see far into heaven." H.W. Beecher. Bible verses are always popular "He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life" John 3:16. An example for a child would be "God's garden has need of little flowers". A women's epitaph may read "Sleep on, sweet mother and wife, And take thy rest, God called thee home he thought it best", or this for a man "We laughed at him because he was different, He laughed at us because we are all the same. We will never laugh the same again".

The best advice I can give you is set their virtue in the highest light.


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