When you have young kids, you plan their birthday parties, organize grill-outs with neighbors, throw baby showers and surprise 30th birthday parties for your best friends and ten year anniversary parties for your favorite couples.
And the streamers fly and the laughter rings out and the time goes by. And then the children grow up and move on. And things begin to change. The house gets quiet and the tumult simmers down. There is more behind you than ahead.
I realized this one day when I came home from attending the third funeral in less than a month. Fresh in my mind was the grief, the logistics of death, and the details guiding the process. Surely there was room for some originality and humor.
“Okay,” I said to my husband, in a matter of fact tone, “It’s time to start a funeral file of personal preferences.”
“You’re morbid,” he accused me.
“No, I’m not, “I retorted hotly, “I’m pragmatic. And what better time to start a file on scary subjects than Halloween?”
Apparently, I’m not alone in my thinking. Tombstones and memorials are reflecting a decided shift in emphasis to the personal. David Quiring, a monument maker in Seattle says, “People resist being just another brick in the wall. They really want to preserve their uniqueness.”
People who want to be memorialized with pizzazz and verve are picking their own tombstone inscriptions.
Example: Step softly, a dream lies buried here. They are picking their own tombstone design.
Example: Cut-out electrical guitars, teddy bears, and favorite flowers all are gracing tombstones in graveyards across the country.
One couple commissioned a life-size sculpture of a Mercedes Benz. The thirty-six ton work cost more than $250,000 and took two years to make. A family commissioned a tablet in the image of a $100 bill and had the dead man’s name inscribed where Ben Franklin’s picture should be.
Actually, the business of making highly personalized gravestones has been around for decades and decades – providing a lasting testimonial of a life uniquely lived. And doing a few other things besides.
Sacred to the memory
of Jared Bates
His widow, age 24,
lives at 7 Elm Street
has every qualification
for a good wife
to be comforted.
Like a little marketing:
Here lies Jane Smith
Wife of Thomas Smith
This monument erected by her husband as a tribute to
monuments of this style
are 250 dollars
And joke making:
Here lies a father of 29
there would have been more but he didn’t have time
And merry making:
Here lies the bones
of Joseph Jones
when from the tomb
to meet his doom
he rises amidst sinners.
Take him to dwell
in heaven or hell
And name calling:
On a miser:
and poorly died
and no one cried.
And revenge seeking:
Dear Sister, here lies the body of Mary Ford we hope her soul is with the Lord but if for hell she’s changed this life better live there than as J. Ford’s wife.
Some day, I am going to go walking in old, forgotten graveyards and find inspirational messages that stir me. And I’ll copy them down for future reference. And put them in my file folder too.