Personalization of a headstone usually includes an epitaph, which is carved into the grave marker material as a tribute to the life of the deceased. In this article, you will learn the importance of this ritual and some of the methods that people choose for their inscriptions and epitaphs.
Epitaphs have been as short as one word or as lengthy as a passage from the Bible. Religious epitaphs are especially popular and usually involve quotes from the Scriptures, prayers, and other passages from religious text. Epitaphs may express a belief in immortality, love, sorrow, or inspiration. Poetry and philosophy quotes are other popular methods of engraving a headstone.
Epitaphs are often used to create individuality on a grave and preventing cemeteries from filling up with a sea of names and dates without any sentimental significance. Adding another dimension to headstones is the many different kinds of lettering that one may choose. The techniques of today greatly differ from the chiseling that ancient inhabitants employed. Today, endless choices in fonts and detail are available , thanks to drafting and stencil cutting completed by computers.
Examples of Inscriptions and Epitaphs
Not all people leave religious phrases or thoughtful quotes, as some actually leave curses. Famous playwright William Shakespeare had an inscription that read:
“Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.”
Humor also finds its place. In a Georgia cemetery, one grave read, “I told you I was sick!” In Enosburg Falls, Vermont, the grave of Anna Hopewell makes fun of the way she passed away: “Here lies the body of our Anna/ Done to death by a banana/ It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low/ But the skin of the thing that made her go.” Epitaphs can use a play on words and puns to make light of a death. The tombstone of a lawyer in England reads: “Sir John Strange. Here lies an honest man. And that is Strange.”
Many people are also interested in the inscriptions and epitaphs pertaining to the formally rich and famous. A few notable quotes include:
Alexander the Great , “A tomb now suffices him for whom the world was not enough”
Frank Sinatra , “The best is yet to come.”
Winston Churchill , “I am ready tmeet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”
Virginia Woolf , “Against you I will fling myself unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!”
Wild Bill Hickok ,
J. B. Hickok
Killed by the assassin
In Deadwood, Black Hills
Aug. 2d 1876
Pard, we will meet
again in the Happy
To part no more,