Epitaphs and headstone inscriptions

"epitaphs, headstone inscriptions, grave markers epitaphs"Did you know that decades ago it was fashionable for people to prepare their own headstone inscriptions or grave markers epitaphs? For those who weren’t clever at writing, a professional “monument poet” could be hired. Throughout history, tombstone inscriptions have existed because every life is worth remembering…and many loving, and even curious epitaphs go well beyond the dates of birth and death. A few years ago, award-winning author Douglas Keister published a book called Stories in Stone – a Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. Of course, the topic is a complicated one. Did you know that it’s quite rare to see a sunflower on a tombstone? (That surprises me, since the sunflower is one of our most requested icons on our memorial windchimes.) Or that the human foot symbolizes humility and service since it consistently touched the earth. Stories in Stone provides this history and unlocks the language of a wide variety of common and not so common cemetery symbols. Keister’s photography is top-notch, earning him the title, America’s most noted photographer of historic architecture.

While funeral traditions are changing, I think most of us still find that cemeteries are peaceful and spiritual places.

A bronze plaque outside Mission South Funeral Home-San Antonio, TX, reads: A Cemetery Is where lives are commemorated, deaths are recorded, families are reunited, memories are made tangible, and love is undisguised; This is a cemetery. Communities accord respect, families bestow reverence, historians seek information and our heritage is thereby enriched. Testimonies of devotion, pride and remembrance are cast in bronze to pay warm tribute to accomplishments and life, not the death of a loved one. The cemetery is homeland for memorials that are a sustaining source of comfort to the living. A cemetery is a history of people, a perpetual record of yesterday and a sanctuary of peace and quiet today. A cemetery exists because every life is worth loving and remembering – always.

This large headstone quoted below appeared to cover three plots in a cemetery in TX; Wade was only 17 yrs. old when he died and Catherine (beloved of Wade) died 1 yr. later at 19 years old.

When you are told that I am dead, do not believe it.
Walk among the trees and I will speak to you.
In the soft, mystery song of the wind;
Touch a leaf sprinkled with sunshine and you will be touching me.
Pick up a smooth, worn stone and throw it into the sea,
That will help you to understand that I am not dead;
Whether I am in your hand or in the sea,
I am a child of the changing earth, changed and free.

I thought this particular headstone inscription was amazing, given Wade’s short time on earth. It also occurred to me that this would make a beautiful poem card to accompany our line of Amazing Grace memorial wind chimes.

Sympathy Poems – a celebration of life

"sympathy poems"Many people call us looking for a unique, personalized sympathy gift; a gift that will be meaningful and enduring. They are searching for a gift alternative to flowers which are beautiful, but fleeting. Our personalized Woodstock Amazing Grace wind chimes are often used for memorial purposes. Today, we give the option of including beautiful sympathy poems with our chimes. The bereavement poem below, attributed to Mary Frye (circa 1932), was given to a friend of mine when her father passed away, and it brought her great comfort. I love it as well and I think it adds something really special to our chimes. Sympathy poems are suitable to tuck into a sympathy card, to incorporate into a funeral program, to put on a headstone, or to send along with a sympathy gift if you so choose. Here are four of my favorite memorial poems:

In Remembrance
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am a diamond glint on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain
When you awake in the morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight
I am the soft stars that shine on night
Do not stand by my grave and cry
I am not there I did not die

Mary Frye – 1932


Live, Laugh, Love
He has achieved success who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women,
the respect of intelligent men and the love
of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation
of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it:
Who has left the world better than he found it,
whether an improved poppy,
a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others
and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.

Bessie Anderson Stanley, 1904


Gone from my Sight
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side
spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and
starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of
beauty and strength. I stand watch her at length until
she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the
sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says:
“There, she is gone!”
“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in
mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my
side and she is just as able to bear her load of living
freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just
at the moment when someone at my side says:

“There, she is gone!”

There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:

“Here she comes!”

And, that is dying.

Adapted from the poetry of Henry Van Dyke


The Rose Still Grows Beyond the Wall
Near a shady wall a rose once grew,
budded and blossomed in God’s free light,
Watered and fed by morning dew,
shedding its sweetness day and night.
As it grew and blossomed fair and tall,
slowly rising to loftier height,
It came to a crevice in the wall,
through which there shone a beam of light.
Onward it crept with added strength,
with never a thought of fear or pride.
It followed the light through the crevice’s length,
and unfolded itself on the other side.
The light, the dew, the broadening view
were found the same as thy were before:
And it lost itself in beauties new,
breathing its fragrance more and more.
Shall claim of death cause us to grieve,
and make our courage faint or fail?
Nay! Let us faith and hope receive:
the rose still grows beyond the wall.
Scattering fragrance far and wide,
just as it did in days of yore,
Just as it did on the other side,
Just as it will for evermore.

The poetry of A.L. Frink