Statue of child with basket on stone bench.  (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Statue of child with basket on stone bench. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)


Unidentified marker in cemetery in  Abilene, KS.

Unidentified marker in cemetery in Abilene, KS.

April has two “special” days I don’t enjoy. First, I’m not a huge fan of April Fools Day and all the pranks that tumble in, once after another. But that’s behind us now. So, are you ready for tomorrow’s special day? Drum roll, please…

Sunday, April 6th is “PLAN YOUR EPITAPH DAY ”

The flower of the day is Snow Crocus, and the recipe of the day is Lima Beans in Sour Cream (cook beans, drain, add salt, pepper and sour cream to taste.) Ohboy.

If you’re planning your own epitaph or an epitaph for someone else and need suggestions, here are some ideas taken from the words others have had set in stone:

“Murdered by a traitor and a coward whose name is not worthy to appear here.” ~ Jesse James’ mother, Zerelda, chose this inscription for Jesse’s tombstone.

“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” ~ Thornton Wilder’s choice

“She did it the hard way.” ~ on tombstone of actress Bette Davis

“The best is yet to come.” ~ Frank Sinatra’s choice for his tombstone

~ in a Maryland cemetery: “Here lies an atheist. All dressed up and no place to go.” 

“Here lies W.C. Fields. I’d rather be living in Philadelphia.” ~ W.C. Fields’ epitaph

“3.141592653589793238462643338327950” ~ on Dutch Mathematician Ludolph vanCeulan’s tombstone. In 1610, at age 70, vanCeulan was the first to calculate the value of pi in 35 digits.

“Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.” ~ epitaph for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

~ on tombstone of twin infants buried together in Fort Scott National Cemetery: “They took their first breaths with God” (Their father was in the military; he and their mother are buried next to the infants.)

Whether or not you plan to have an epitaph, “Plan Your Epitaph Day” is a reminder to make your own final plans now instead of leaving them for others to handle later.

In closing, I thank you all for your kind comments and emails last week. My mother has been moved back to her apartment and is receiving excellent care and helpful medications. Mom does not have to plan her epitaph. She and my dad have a shared tombstone, and whenever the time comes she’ll be buried in the plot next to his. Their epitaph has already been set in the stone: BEST FRIENDS FOREVER

Unfinished lighthouse, set at the edge of a field in Brown's Park, Abilene, KS

Unfinished lighthouse, stones set in concrete, waits at the edge of a field in Brown’s Park, Abilene, KS

Now this is majestic stone work!  Buena Vista, CO

Now this is majestic stone work! Buena Vista, CO



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, special days in April

71 responses to “SET IN STONE

  1. Don

    Really enjoyed your post Marylin. Loved those epitaphs, especially the one of the atheist – brought a chuckle – so good. Good news about your Mom and their shared epitaph is quite something. Great words.

    • My favorite humorous one is W.C. Fields’ epitaph, Don, and the one that breaks my heart is the epitaph of the stillborn twins.
      I wish my mom recognized their shared epitaph, Don, but it doesn’t register with her any longer. Between his Alzheimer’s and her dementia, it’s good we had it written in the stone.

  2. Some great epitaphs. The atheist one is particularly smile-worthy. Glad your mother is back home again. That is smile-worthy, too, in a different way. 🙂

    • It is smile-worthy, even if her health continues to deteriorate. But at least she’s back in familiar surroundings. The hospital was very confusing to her, and that made it very hard.

      • Hospital environments are confusing at the best of times. :(.

      • A friend from high school–I hadn’t seen her in years–came by and we had coffee in the hospital cafeteria and reconnected as though we’d seen each other just the day before. You don’t realize what a gift that can be until you’re watching the IV lines and your confused mother, and then suddenly a friendly face appears and understands. It was wonderful!

  3. Good post. My favourite is that of Spike Milligan: I told you I was ill.

  4. Thanks Marylin – we’ll be spending the day thinking up smart comments to go on our gravestones. Oh no, we are all being cremated, so there won’t be a stone. Too bad! 🙂

    • That’s my plan, too. But in some cases, when a person is cremated the remains are buried, and an epitaph can still be added to the small marker. I want my ashes scattered. Some in Colorado and some in Kansas…or wherever. I don’t think I’ll know the difference.

  5. I love the choice of epitaph for your parents Marylin. Nothing could be nicer for a married couple. Though I plan on making arrangements for my own funeral to de-stress the situation for the family, I doubt I’ve the nerve to use an epitaph of my own.I’d prefer my daughter to use one that reflects her feelings or general feelings about me. Naturally I’d love words like kind, funny and generous to be sprinkled about but it’s always possible that’ my view and it might really be ‘Scooge is now Dead’.
    xxx Massive Hugs to you xxx

    • I don’t think so, David, not on a bet!
      Words like kind, funny and generous will be included…and if Reuben has anything to to with the wording, it will wonderful!
      How about: His trademark was ‘Massive Hugs’ and it brightened everyone’s day.

  6. Nice collection of photos with examples. The choice of epitaph for your parents is choice, Marylin, a commentary on their closeness and testimony to an enduring marriage.

  7. Hudson Howl

    Incidentally – “3.141592653589793238462643338327950”, have you read or seen the film ‘The Life of Pi’.

    It would seem to some degree we are living parallel lives, running off sync by a year. My father passed away the end of May at home (which was planned). One reason, not the only reason, I started to follow your post -not sure if I’d mention this before.

    His stone, an I suppose my mother’s as well, was put in place just as the winter snows came. I eventually trudged through for some pictures so my mother to see. We purposely, did not place an epitaph on the stone. Two birds on a branch, name and dates. What was important for us, was that surname was bold and large -pride in one’s name, to be proud of oneself is a silent epitaph. And that is often the case when you walk through rural cemeteries.

    • I had no idea about your father; no you hadn’t mentioned it, so I’m glad to understand now. My parents’ shared headstone has the surname in bold, large print as well, and they both grew up in very small town/rural areas.
      My mom was pleased with the epitaph after my dad died, but now it is just confusing to her. Between his Alzheimer’s and her dementia, it’s good their combined epitaph was set in stone.
      I was amazed to learn that now mathematicians from around the world would not be able to fit the numbers on their combined tombstones; pi’s numerical value now has more numbers than could wrap around a hundred tombstones in a long line. Makes 35 numbers look pretty good!

  8. I really enjoyed the epitaphs you listed above, Marylin. I don’t like thinking of having to do this though, for myself or loved ones, though. I remember all too well having to do this for my father and how hard it was to summarize his life, his wonderful spirit, and his beliefs in just a few words. It was so overwhelming for me that I honestly can’t remember what we settled on, but I think it was a Bible verse. On a lighter note, I was happy you were back today to join me for morning coffee. I knew something was wrong last week when you hadn’t posted in the morning and sure enough your mother was in the hospital. How is she? How are you? You have been in my thoughts and prayers. XO Robyn

    • Thank you, Robyn. It was a hard time for both of us. She was confused and afraid, and if it hadn’t been for the caregivers continuing their shifts at the hospital with me, I couldn’t have kept her in the bed or gotten her onto the porta-potty seat quickly enough without them. Antibiotics in the IV turned around the UTI, but test showed other more serious health issues existed. I had to deny treatment for those–which was her wish before the dementia and still is the right decision–but it was also hard.
      Now she’s back at her apartment with excellent care and much more comfortable, for now, being in familiar surroundings. I related so well when you said it was overwhelming to write your father’s epitaph, Robyn. That was how I felt confirming the decision to do nothing more than antibiotics and pain medications for my mom. It’s sad, hard, and draining to deal with losing our parents, isn’t it?

      • Oh Marylin, my eyes are filling with tears, and my heart is aching for you. I am so very sorry that you have had to make such decisions for your mother. Through it all, hold on to all of the love and memories you share, hold her tightly and take in her every being. I know you will and I will look forward to the days you write about her. Many hugs and much love to you both. Take care of you! Robyn
        PS – I loved the epitaph you wrote for me and added it to my artichoke post!

      • Thank you so much, Robyn. It was a hard time; long hours in a hospital room, followed by nights alone in her apartment beginning to empty drawers and sort through things, together made for a hard time. It is sad and draining to deal with losing our parents, even when we know the time has come and they are ready.

  9. I’m so glad your mom is doing better–and what a great epitaph. I think I’ll do a riff on it, (when I ever get ready to think about that…. I’m not ready today).

    Have you planned yours?

    • It’s one of the perks of planning to be cremated, Tracy. I’m leaning more toward leaving letters–or memories–with those I love.
      Like you, I’m not ready yet to go there and face that. But after being with Mom day after day in the hospital, I had some sleepless nights–and bad dreams–about waiting too long and leaving this for others to have to do.

      • That’s a good idea—

        Have you thought of making a memory book? It’s not very expensive any more (with print on demand technology). If you decide you want to do that, I can help you with the process.

      • Thanks for your offer, Tracy. We’ll be having all of these posts, with pictures and comments, printed out for Mom’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But I’d be interested in your suggestions for doing a memory book as well.

  10. juliabarrett

    I’m so glad to hear your mother is doing better. The epitaph thing – brilliant. I have got to do this except I plan to be cremated. Hmmmm. Now I have to think about what I would say.
    I also hate April Fool’s Day.

    • Cremation is my plan, too, Julia. But we have several friends who plan the same thing, and their copper urns with ashes will be buried or stored in mini-vaults. They still are having epitaphs put on the little markers. I think I’ll just have my ashes scattered and make it easier…at least for me.

  11. I enjoyed the lines you shared. Don’t think I will write my own yet….or anyone else’s for that matter. I am glad your mother is better and that things look up a bit. The air is chilly today but the sun shines! I will wait for a tad more warmth but the sun gives me hope it will come. I hope you have a good weekend and can enjoy some peacefulness.

    • Southeast Kansas weather amazes me, Claudia. We left snowstorms in Colorado, and daffodils were blooming in Ft. Scott. Then it got rainy and cold, and one full day and evening we kept looking out Mom’s hospital room window: the area was under a tornado watch. Such a combination!
      Mom heard the rain and hard wind against the window and kept trying to get out of her hospital bed, saying it was time to go home…NOW.
      Mom is back at her apartment now with excellent care and meds., staying comfortable. I still am uneasy, very tired and having trouble sleeping. It all goes together, I think.

  12. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Thanks, Marylin. FYI, there were some hilarious “fake” tombstones with epitaphs at Royal Gorge Park. I hope they can recreate their “graveyard” when they rebuild from the fire.

  13. Glad your mother is doing better Marylin. What strange things we celebrate with special days! I’ll be cremated so won’t have an epitaph, but I do intend to plan the funeral in advance – my mother did that and it was so much better that she had what she thought was right.

    • Andrea, my mother hasn’t planned her funeral (and with the dementia, it’s too late now), and she hadn’t planned my dad’s, either. She helped organize and serve family dinners for so many funerals at their church that I don’t think she gave it much thought; it was just something you do when the time comes, not a lot of fanfare. So if you gleaned any outstanding ideas from your mother’s preparations, please share them!

      • No outstanding ideas Marylin! Mam was very traditional, so it was just a simple service and cremation, but even things like her choosing the music she wanted was something I then didn’t have to worry about doing right.

  14. Great post title. Set in stone. Quite something to think about. I’m glad your mom is home. Hard either way to see her so frail, but my god, you’ve done a hell of a job in connecting with her and her history and shared it so beautifully with all of us. Thank you again for that. I like the range of epitaphs, too. They’re quite something. Short but they say a lot.

    • Thanks, Diana, for your supportive comments. I’ve tried to connect her history and life in the blog stories, but the hospital ordeal was a hard one to write about. So confusing for her and emotionally difficult for me. But she’s back in her familiar apartment now and her caregivers are excellent, so this next stage will be as normal as possible.

  15. I’m so happy to hear that your mother is back at home and doing better. I was thinking about her and you this week, Marylin.
    I’ve never liked April Fool’s Day either.

    • I never especially like April Food’s Day when I was growing up–it seemed like some of the tricks were kind of cruel–and I don’t like it any better now with my grandchildren’s jokes. Our grandson had so many–one after the other–and then the next day they continued! He didn’t get it that it was for April 1st ONLY.
      Thanks for the kind thoughts, Jill. It was a difficult week, and more problems await, as expected.

  16. This is not something that I ever thought about. probably I will write it down in a journal one day and my children will come across it twenty years after I am gone when it is much too late!

    • That’s exactly what I’m hoping will happen for me, Elizabeth. That would be better than writing down several now–based on different days and different moods–and having them choose the wrong one and engrave it in stone! 😉

  17. Pingback: The Art… | Robyn Graham Photography

  18. Thank you for the news about your mother, and continued prayers and blessings.

  19. Marilyn … I’m glad to hear that your Mom is much better. I also love the inscription coined, I imagine, before the BFF acronym became popular.

    One epitaph I thought was amusing: “I told you I was sick.” Yours were great. 😉

    • She’s back at her apartment now with her caregivers. I know it’s easier to be in her familiar environment, but the pain meds make her lethargic.

      Some of the epitaphs are memorable and funny; I’m so glad I want to be cremated and don’t have to come up with one for myself.

  20. So glad to hear the good news of your Mom – this is a wonderful post.

  21. I’ve been thinking a lot about death this past week. A driver trying to take a shortcut through a crowded intersection collided into my car two Saturdays ago. I came out of it with only a chest wall contusion, but my old Jeep is a goner. I’m so sorry to hear about Mary, but your parents’ epitaph made me bounce back with a smile. Because forever is really what it’s all about. Thanks, Marylin, for helping us to think about this.

    • Oh, Darla, I’m glad you’re doing okay. But how you can say it was “only” a chest wall contusion! That can be serious, so take very good care of yourself. Drivers and their shortcuts…be in a hurry, save twenty seconds, and jeopardize others’ lives.
      I’m glad my parents’ epitaph made you bounce back with a smile, Darla. Forever really is what it’s all about, but for now I also want you to be safe and healthy.

  22. Hey, as I am not ill and have no intention of passing any time soon … you know what you can do with your epitaphs …. ;)))))

    So glad to hear Mom is back in the apartment, always thinking of you both

    Oh, and as I to plan on being burnt too, maybe you me and Jules can set a date in the far, far distant future, just like whats his face and whats her name when they agreed to meet up at the Empire state … you know what I mean … and we can have a Viking style funeral pyre with all three of us on there, about 45, to 50 years should do it

    • Viking-style funeral pyres…hmm. Would I have to wear one of those horned helmets? And what if my pyre gets stuck on the edge of the water?
      But if we can wait 45-50 years to do it, then count me in!!!

  23. Dear Marylin, yes, so good to know that your mom is back at her apartment and being so well looked after. I have had you very much on my mind and in my prayers. I know this isn’t an easy time for you. I love all these epitaphs, they did make me smile! The one your mom and dad have though speaks volumes. What better epitaph than that? What better testimony to how a marriage should be?
    Bless you dear Marylin, love and hugs still coming your way from my little corner in Somerset as I share the view of that majestic stone work in Colorado with you…

  24. The photo of Buena Vista, CO is gorgeous Marylin!
    I’m so glad that your sweet mom is back in familiar surroundings, and I sincerely hope that the future isn’t as traumatic as the recent hospital stay was. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones.
    I’ve instructed my husband to scatter my cremated ashes. But if my ashes were to be buried or stored, the epitaph “Best Friends Forever” would be the highest honor I could imagine. What a wonderful epitaph!

    • Buena Vista is on Colorado’s western slope, Theresa, and there are so many vivid scenes just waiting for your photography talents.
      I think true, life-long friendship and love deserves the engraved in stone epitaph, Best Friends Forever. They were married 68 years and were friends years before that, so all along they planned to be buried alongside one another.

  25. April Fools- I am not a fan either!
    I am glad that your mom is out of the hospital and getting great care. I bet she is much more comfortable in familiar surroundings.
    Best Friends Forever” is a beautiful epitaph. I enjoyed reading your fun post 🙂

    • She is getting great care now. They’ve also stopped the pain medications, to be given only as necessary, and she doesn’t need them nearly as much as they predicted. I think much of it is that she’s back in her familiar surroundings where she senses the connection with her caregivers.

  26. “Epitaph day”, .. well I guess there is a day for everything, and when it ever comes to this; “what a hell of a ride” 😉

  27. Marylin, I don’t have an epitaph yet, but it sure is something to think about. Your parents epitaph is wonderful. I personally, love visiting graveyards and reading tombstones. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Oh, I love graveyard visiting, too, Tracy. Especially old cemeteries with tombstones dating back to the 1800s. The names and epitaphs are amazing, and some of the tributes are very touching.
      Thanks, Tracy.

  28. I’m a bit late, but I’m also glad to know that your mother is doing better. The W. C. Fields epitaph is classic, and the atheist’s brought a smile. This is not something I’ve ever given any thought!

  29. Think of all the possibilities based on W.C. Fields’ epitaph. Just list our full name–Here Lies Marylin Warner. I’d Rather Be Alive Anywhere Else–or something like that. Very simple, very basic. Yep, not bad at all. But like you, I really like the atheist being all dressed up and no where to go!

  30. This took research and a lot of interesting epitaph’s to let us in on! I love different directions blogs go! This made me stop and think about how I want to be remembered! Smiles, Robin

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