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
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.
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.