Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Incessant Divagation

“Memorable Memorial Messages” 
by the late Rick Jones

November is usually known for two holidays. There's Thanksgiving, of course, which is my favorite holiday of all, and Veteran's Day, which I heartily endorse. But I had planned to write an article about various lesser-known days of commemoration and celebration in this month, like those those set aside to honor tongue twisters, toilets, Mars [the planet, not the candy bar], and two of my favorite people in history.

I decided to focus on just one “holiday” because I discovered NATIONAL PLAN YOUR EPITAPH DAY. An epitaph is written in memory of someone who has died and I want to share a few with you that are said to actually appear on headstones. If you want to know why you should plan your own epitaph, one good reason is that otherwise, your “friends” may mark your grave with something like this:

Here lies Ezekiel Aikle 
Age 102 
The Good Die Young 

Anna Wallace 
The children of Israel wanted bread 
And the Lord sent them manna; 
Old Clerk Wallace wanted a wife, 
And the Devil sent him Anna.

Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44 
No Les, no Moore

Here's one that marks the passing of a man who left several creditors unpaid. One of them “generously” donated a grave marker, which seemed rather charitable until the wording was revealed:

Owen Moore, gone away,
Owin' more than he could pay

A woman who recognized that tragedy can be used as opportunity commissioned this inscription:

Sacred to the memory of my husband, John Barnes
who died January 3, 1803.
His comely young widow, age 23,
has many qualifications of a good wife,
and yearns to be comforted. 

The organizers of National Plan Your Epitaph Day give this counsel: “a forgettable gravestone is a fate worse than death”. But given a choice, many of these departed souls would probably rather have their markers be forgotten.

Still, wouldn't it be better to leave a message you composed yourself? Several people who were accused of being hypochondriacs have marked their graves with the question:

NOW will you believe I was sick?

One man decided that if anyone got to make a pun with his name, it would be him:

Here lies Johnny Yeast
Pardon me for not rising

And a fellow who apparently valued his privacy took steps to assure that his name would not be remembered, but his grave would:

I was somebody.
Who, is no business of yours.

I think it's appropriate for this article to be posted on Tuesday, November 3, 2015. This year's National Plan Your Epitaph Day was scheduled for Monday, November 2. Since I'm a day behind, I can claim to be an expert on my subject: an article on epitaphs by “the late” Rick Jones. One day late.
Here's just one more epitaph, which I would imagine has often broken a somber mood and produced guilty laughter in a cemetery in Albany, New York:

Harry Edsel Born 1903 – Died 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft
to see if the car was on the way down.
It was.

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