Tombstones and epitaphs |

Tombstones and epitaphs

Tombstones and epitaphs

Recently I said something really stupid (I know, right) and commented to a friend that I wouldn’t want that carved on my headstone. Then, being the self centered smart aleck that I am, I started considering what I would want carved on my headstone.

I’m not arrogant enough to think that anyone will really care what is on my headstone, but it would amuse me to know that I left the world with a wise crack that might bring a smile to those who walked by. With that in mind I did a little research and found some great headstones and epitaphs for inspiration.

I wasn’t clear about the difference between an epitaph and what a clever tombstone carving, so I looked it up. It turns out that an epitaph can be a eulogy, an obituary or a tombstone inscription whereas not all tombstone inscriptions are epitaphs. It’s sort of like a marriage and a love affair; a marriage can be a love affair but not all love affairs are marriages … OK, I’m just going to shut up now.

I found some great epitaphs inscribed on tombstones, some really clever stuff that shows that some folks take their sense of humor with them all the way to the grave. One of my favorites was a stone that simply read, “Well, this sucks.” How cool is that?

The famous actor Jack Lemmon who was hilarious in great old comedies like “The Great Race” and “The Odd Couple” has a headstone that reads like a movie credit. It says “Jack Lemmon in…” written just above the ground. Get it? It’s brilliant but only really work for an actor so I won’t be stealing his material anymore.

Game show host and producer Merv Griffin’s headstone reads, “I won’t be back after this message” and Rodney Dangerfield’s marker warns the rest of the cemetery, “There goes the neighborhood.”

It’s not just famous people who leave clever epitaphs. One guy’s stone reads, “I told you I was sick!” and another reads, “I knew this would happen”, so I kind of feel pressured to come up with a good one.

When I started thinking about it I realized that it’s a lot easier to think of things you wouldn’t want to be your epitaph. You life probably didn’t turn out like you planned if your headstone reads any of the following:

I thought you could turn left there.

He made sensible decisions.

A decent bowler … 237 average.

She had a great personality.

Never missed a day of work.

At least the rash finally cleared up.

He peaked at 20 but died at 80.

Thinking of things I would want on my headstone is a little more difficult. Since I have no idea how long I’ll live, what will happen between now and then and how I’ll die I feel kind of limited in the material I have to use.

Here’s a shot list of epitaphs I hope I can use:

The oldest man to almost climb Mount Everest.

The 2055 AARP Magazine Sexiest Man Alive.

A sailor to the end….one liberty port too many.

Any of those would be great and a one or two are even possible…it could happen…but none are likely. A list of more realistic epitaphs might include things like:

I thought you could turn left there.

He was just kidding … she wasn’t.

If there’s no ice cream in Heaven, I’ll be right back.

He made poor choices.

Who knew a bee sting could do that?

He outlived the restraining orders!

So long and thanks for all the fish! (Not original but still very cool)

I’ve still got many years to work on my epitaph unless you’ve heard something I haven’t. I’m open to suggestions so please feel free to shoot me an email with your thoughts and if they’re suitable for a family newspaper I’ll share them in a future column.

The truth is that I’m not obsessed with death or even worried about dying someday, that’s pretty much inevitable, but I am intrigued with the idea of leaving on last wise crack on my way out. If only I could come up with something clever…or even almost clever.

Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at