by the Calvary Ghostwriter
My parents are both alive, thankfully. But they’re at an age where defining their last wishes is a good idea.
Almost anyone who’s buried a parent will tell you leaving the details to after the fact is a very bad idea. It creates undue stress at a bad time, invites family squabbles and takes away all the opportunity to budget wisely. And above all, you’re only guessing what your parents would want.
Emotions run high when a parent dies and children can run wildly onto either path of being too extravagant or too miserly.
There are many details to consider: cemetery and lot location, music, time of day, obituary details (especially in today’s environment of non-traditional family structures), flowers, officiant, urn versus casket, etc.
One of the things at the top of the list to deal with is the marker. This can be a major expense, depending on the size and engraving; an upright memorial can run thousands of dollars. This is the stage we’re at in planning right now. My parents have lots at Calvary, and we’ve written down all their last wishes about even minor details.
“Written in stone” naturally has a ring of permanence to it. So it’s probably important to spend a little time in deciding what to put on a memorial marker.
Depending on the stone you choose, you probably won’t have a lot of room to work with. My parents have opted to have no epitaph on their stone. That was a little hard for me to accept. They are fabulous parents, devoted to each other and their children and grandchildren; to have nothing of praise on their final marker seems to me a bit like giving them the short end of the stick.
An epitaph is a short phrase and can be religious, poetic, emotional, a quotation or even humorous in nature. The famous comedian, Rodney Dangerfield, had “There goes the neighborhood” engraved on his memorial.
Here are some popular epitaphs:
- Rest in Peace
- A Loving Husband (Wife) and Father (Mother)
- Forever in Our Hearts
- An Inspiration to Us All
- In God’s Care
- In Loving Memory
- Our Little Angel
- We Miss You
Sound a bit run of the mill? Epitaphs are like greeting cards – you have to shop around or be inventive to come up with something that doesn’t sound mundane.
Along with the words, it’s important to get name spellings and dates right. You can’t erase an engraving. Just today, a coworker told me about her grandfather whose name was “Otto.” It reads “Othto” on his gravestone.
You’ll also have to consider graphics. These days there are a lot of choices – photographs can be attached or image-engraved onto stones. Or engraved art can be anything from an airplane (say, for an avid pilot) to a fishing rod. Rosaries and crosses are popular traditional choices.
Don’t forget to consider the color and composition of the stone. Many cemeteries only accept granite now. The reason is obvious when you see old limestone stones that have weathered and are unreadable. Granite lasts.
Once you have a firm idea of the content, it’s time to contact a stone artist to have a layout drawn up. We’re currently working with Tom Miller (Monuments by Miller). Someone like Tom can produce a layout, give you a cost estimate and tell you how long it will take to create the marker. By the way, depending on what you want, it could take weeks to months.
Remember the 5 Ps – Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. You can take that to the grave.