Are you in charge of planning a funeral for a loved one? You will certainly have many things on your to-do list, and one of them is the epitaph. This is the inscription on the headstone or grave marker that honors the memory of the departed. The use of these epitaphs can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Greek, and Roman Empires circa the 1700s.
In fact, this common funeral terminology comes from the Greek word “epitaphios,” with epi meaning “at or over” and taphos referring to a “tomb”. Thus, the literal translation is over a tomb, which is quite apt because an epitaph indeed lives up to this description. Moreover, it coincides with the Greek’s tradition of giving funeral orations to honor the deceased.
Today, epitaphs have become the norm. As the one planning the headstone design, you can choose light-hearted, witty, profound, or inspirational wordings. Just remember that a great tribute honors and reflects the spirit of the one who passed away. Thus, you must take great pains in personalizing the inscriptions so you can do justice to the memorial. To help you out, you may consider the following suggestions so you can pen a unique and memorable epitaph.
Think of Several Ideas and Request for Feedback
Think of several ideas and list them down in a notebook. During the funeral services, you can ask family and friends what they think of your epitaph ideas. Since this inscription will mark the deceased’s final resting place, it is understandable why you want to get it right. Asking for input from others before making the final choice will help. To illustrate, if the inscription is for a parent, make sure all your siblings are onboard before getting the words permanently engraved on an expensive granite headstone.
Allow Plenty of Time for the Process
There is no rush in making a final decision. After the burial services, the funeral director will most likely place a temporary grave marker. Thus, you have plenty of time to think things through. Deciding over what to write is not something you should do flippantly. There is no need to rush or put undue pressure on yourself, especially if you are still mourning. You may think of ideas, but you don’t have to necessarily decide at once. You have plenty of time to order the headstone and finalize the engravings.
Keep Things Simple and Short
In general, you will not find an excessively long epitaph. It is not an essay with multiple paragraphs. Usually, they are short and simple because they have to conform to the size of the headstone. For example, you have a granite flat marker; you can only work on one side. On the other hand, if you have a large upright headstone or monument, you have more space for words. In fact, some cemeteries permit writings on both the front and back. If you have any questions regarding this, you can confirm with the funeral director to make sure you order the right piece.
Practice the Fine Art of Empathy
Now is the time to put yourself in the position of your loved one. What would the deceased want? You know the person’s character the best, so make an honest assessment. Is a light-hearted or humorous epitaph in line with your loved one’s personality? Perhaps, a more serious quote from a philosopher or famous historian fits the profile. It would help to jot down different options that complement the persona of the deceased.
Consider Sharing Something About the Individual’s Legacy
You can also consider sharing something personal that speaks of the person’s advocacy. For example, you can write: “Beloved wife, courageous doctor, caring mom, and genuine friend.” You will commonly find this style in a veteran’s epitaph with words like: “Thank you for giving your life to the country.” These short testimonials will bring a measure of comfort for those who will eventually come to visit the grave. Whatever you write can give the guests something poignant to reflect upon.
Factor in Religious Beliefs and Principles
Your task in drafting the epitaph will become less daunting if you factor in the core beliefs and principles of the deceased. For example, perhaps your deceased loved one is a person of faith who staunchly supports the Catholic church. In this case, consider putting down a bible verse and pairing it with a crucifix emblem. Other options could be verses from a favorite poem, lyrics from a song, or passages from favorite prose. Ensure that your final choice represents the individual and the most important values in his or her life.
Work With the Big Picture in Mind
Remember that the epitaph is your chance to convey a message to people. Many will come to pay respects to your loved one’s final resting place years or decades down the line. Thus, you want your chosen inscriptions to weather the test of time. For best results, choose wordings that are classic, timeless, and hold a universal appeal. Choosing a trendy gimmick may become obscure in years. And with the cost of a headstone, this is not something you can just readily replace on a whim. So think long and hard before you finalize your epitaph design to save on regrets later.