On my Find A Grave excursions I have the opportunity to photograph a variety of headstones, grave markers and memorials. Some are very simple; listing only a name and date of death. Others are elaborately carved and constructed.
I’ve learned I don’t care for the ones that include photographs. It’s a nice idea but, historically, the materials available have not supported it effectively. With constant exposure to the desert elements, over time, the photos deteriorate and you are left with something reminiscent of “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.
I’ve become intrigued by epitaphs; however.
ep-i-taph [ep-t-taf, tahf]
Noun: a commemorative inscription on a tomb or mortuary monument about the person buried at that site OR a brief poem or other writing in praise of a deceased person.
Verb (used with object): to commemorate in or with an epitaph.
I did not know epitaph could be used as a verb. I think I first heard the word in the title of an old movie, “Let No Man Write My Epitaph”; Shelly Winters, Burl Ives, & Ella Fitzgerald. Since then I’ve heard people use the word, usually facetiously; “That should be your epitaph.” or “I think I’ll have that carved on my tombstone.” I remember a scene in the movie; “The Competition”. Lee Remick; in the middle of a conflict with a petulant conductor (Sam Wanamaker?) tells him; “…it costs extra to carve “Schmuck” on a tombstone but you’re worth it.”
Most of the epitaphs I’ve seen are predictable; “Beloved” this… ; “A Loving” that…; or “In Memory of….”. There seems to be a correlation with gender. Men tend to be “loving”; ‘A Loving Husband…’, etc. whereas women tend to be “Beloved”; ‘Beloved Wife and Mother’, etc. I think most people don’t leave instructions. Loved ones must come up with something in the moment so they rely on customary language and universal themes. The epitaphs in Spanish are similarly predictable and usually express the same thoughts.
This one was intriguing. It could be truly existential but I choose to read it with some humor as well. Do you think he left instructions to have this carved on his tombstone when his time came? I hope so. Though, it would be even more intriguing if a loved one chose that without his input.
I find this one equally intriguing but the impression is less uplifting. “He Finally Found Himself”? There can be achievement or contentment expressed in that phrase. There can also be irony. He finally found himself…dead & buried? So will we all.
These two are interesting in their juxtaposition. I believe them to be mother and daughter, though I do not know for sure. Some markers list the names of parents or children. These did not. They were not of the same generation. Certainly they were related. They were born in the same place and buried next to each other. The married name of the elder is the maiden name of the younger. A number of adjacent graves bear that surname so it appears to be a family plot. As I noted, the usual language would be “A Loving Mother”. It’s hard to read in the photo but, here, one was interred in 1989. Her epitaph is “A Wonderful Loving Mother”. The addition of “Wonderful” is nice. It is a little distinctive and adds a superlative element.
Eighteen years later, the younger one passes away and is interred next to the former. Their stones lie side-by-side. Her epitaph reads; “A Very Wonderful Loving Mother”. I am sure it is true and heartfelt… but it almost sounds a little competitive.
I’m not sure what I would want mine to say.
- “Dont’ worry about me. I’ll be fine.”?
- “Stop staring at me!” ?
- “Who knew?” ?
- Perhaps a QR code to the blog or some other site I liked. I’m sure no one would come to visit me without a smartphone!
I’ll give it more thought. I have plenty of time.
Of course, I’m the same age now as the “Now what was the question.” guy above was when they needed his text.
Maybe I can just ‘check in’ on Facebook from the cemetery.