Beware kind friend as you pass by;
Where you are now, so once was I.
Where I am now, you soon shall be.
Prepare for death and follow me.
(Resthaven Cemetery, Silsbee, Texas)
What will your epitaph say?
When my husband Dan and I were dating, we visited the local cemetery and read the tombstones with a flashlight. That seems like an odd thing for a couple to do on a date, but we lived in a small, southern town, and there were not many activities available. But the local cemeteries provided some interesting discussion points at times.
I remember my first reaction to the epitaph that I quoted at the top of this post. As I looked at the ceramic photo of the deceased on the headstone, I imagined him standing there reading his own words to me.
I’ve thought of this inscription several times in the past few years. And I’ve observed several versions of that particular epitaph, like the one in the photo above. I’ve also referred to it when I taught college freshmen, just beginning their academic journeys. Later, I shared this quote, as I led a group of new writing teachers. And now, I share it with you to encourage you to tell your stories, especially your faith stories.
My mother wrote her own epitaph; although she didn’t know it at the time she penned it. We engraved an excerpt from one of her poems on her headstone.
Happiness, joy, God’s promise I find.
My search has now ended, salvation is mine.
(Nelle Allen Barnes Baize, 2001).
What is your favorite epitaph?
I found this awesome “3-time Emmy Award-winning Documentary dealing with different forms of cemetery preservation” (below) that contains a lot of information about epitaphs (produced by Hop Litzwire and Casey Sanders and presented AETN and the Department of Arkansas Heritage). Enjoy!
YouTube/Hop Litzwire and Casey Sanders (“Silent Storytellers” Cemetery Preservation Documentary , AETN and the Department of Arkansas Heritage)