Magazine article Anglican Journal

Epitaph Will Be the Final Word about Loved Ones; Carved in Stone, the Phrases Last an Eternity

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Epitaph Will Be the Final Word about Loved Ones; Carved in Stone, the Phrases Last an Eternity

Article excerpt

HOW DO YOU choose words to be carved in stone for eternity? Recently I tried to find an epitaph for my father's gravestone. When I agreed to help my mother, I thought it would be easy, being a wordsmith, but it was not.

Do you try to sum up an individual's life, or a couple's lives, in a few words such as Friend to All or Devoted Parents? Do you choose a general statement on death like At Rest? Do you address the living: Be ye also ready, or speak to the dead: We will meet again? Amongst the most popular are Gone but not Forgotten and Ever Remembered, Ever Loved; a few months ago I would have said they were uninspired but now I share the tender emotions.

I leafed through books of famous quotations at a library, studied old hymn books, and read gravestones in local cemeteries but nothing suited my father, and my mother, who will share the plot some day. Then one evening my mother showed me a sketch of what she had in mind. Along with their names, dates, and a sheaf of wheat to symbolize both my father's tie to the land and my mother's love of baking, she had coined the phrase, Loving Hands At Rest. It was perfect. My parents, like many rural folk, dedicated their lives to caring for their family, church, and community, a devotion that involved a lot of hard work, done without complaint, done with love.

I look forward to the headstone's installation. I visit the cemetery often but have difficulty with the rawness of my father's grave. The phrase "a fresh grave" is a misnomer because without flowers or grass, with desolate dirt, it is the antithesis of fresh. It would be futile to plant anything because the earth is still settling and erecting the monument will involve some excavation and disruption.

I leave bouquets on his grave: pussy willows, tulips, lilacs, and irises, but they look so forlorn. There is no peace there tight now. …

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