I’ve always loved visiting cemeteries; they are such a vital part of my growing up years. What draws me are the stories you glean from reading the headstones as you stroll through. I remember one in particular in Cades Cove (in the heart of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee) where about seven tiny graves were lined up one after the other, the mother finally at peace at the end. Oh the heartbreak she must have suffered in her short life in a difficult place at a particularly difficult time (a flu epidemic in the late 1800s).
One headstone I saw in Simla, a small village in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, had been completely covered over with asphalt and developed into a parking lot for government hostel guests. It’s still standing at the base of a large, fat treetrunk with low hanging limbs, and proclaims through the ages: “Here lies Cooma, beloved companion to Lady SoAndSo.” Who was Cooma, I wonder? Friends tell me they believe Cooma was very likely a dog, but I’m not sure. I’ve imagined a whole story centered around Cooma and I like my version better.
At any rate, cemeteries often offer some levity from the overtones of tragedy (I think it would be tragic lying there, instead of where the viewer stands, don’t you?), comedic relief if you will. Here are excellent examples of headstone humor. I collected these from the internet. I would love to acknowledge the work put into cumulating them but cannot remember exactly where they came from. Again, if you have others you’d like to share, I would love having them in a comment.
For not rising.
Memory of an accident in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery:
Here lies the body
of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.
In a Silver City, Nevada, cemetery:
Here lays Butch,
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger,
But slow on the draw.
A lawyer’s epithet in England:
Sir John Strange
Here lies an honest lawyer,
And that is Strange.
Someone determined to be anonymous in Stowe, Vermont (I think I met this man when I was living in Connecticut; he ran the roadside produce stand):
I was somebody.
Who, is no business
Lester Moore was a Wells, Fargo Co. station agent for Naco, Arizona in the cowboy days of the 1880′s. He’s buried in the Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona:
Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les No More.
In a Georgia cemetery:
“I told you I was sick!”
John Penny’s epitaph in the Wimborne, England, cemetery:
Reader if cash thou art
In want of any
Dig 4 feet deep
And thou wilt find a Penny.
On Margaret Daniels grave at Hollywood Cemetery Richmond, Virginia (Ladies who wear dress shoes, I’ll bet you can identify with Margaret. You now have my permission to throw them away so as to avoid this fate!):
She always said her feet were killing her
but nobody believed her.
In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England:
On the 22nd of June
- Jonathan Fiddle -
Went out of tune.
Anna Hopewell’s grave in Enosburg Falls, Vermont has an epitaph that
sounds like something from a Three Stooges movie:
Here lies the body of our Anna
Done to death by a banana
It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go.
More fun with names with Owen Moore in Battersea, London, England:
Than he could pay.
Someone in Winslow, Maine didn’t like Mr. Wood:
In Memory of Beza Wood
Departed this life
Nov. 2, 1837
Aged 45 yrs.
Here lies one Wood
Enclosed in wood
The outer wood
Is very good:
We cannot praise
On a grave from the 1880′s in Nantucket, Massachusetts:
Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there’s only the pod:
Pease shelled out and went to God.
The grave of Ellen Shannon in Girard, Pennsylvania is almost a consumer tip:
Who was fatally burned
March 21, 1870
by the explosion of a lamp
filled with “R.E. Danforth’s
Non-Explosive Burning Fluid”
Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York (Oops! ):
From a cemetery in England (I also saw it in a cemetery in Augusta, Georgia on a visit several years ago):
Born 1903 – Died 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft to see if
the car was on the way down.
Remember man, as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so shall you be,
Remember this and follow me.
- To which someone replied by writing on the tombstome:
To follow you I’ll not consent,
Until I know which way you went.
On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia:
Here lies Ezekial Aikle
The Good Die Young.
In a London, England cemetery:
Here lies Ann Mann,
Who lived an old maid
But died an old Mann.
Dec. 8, 1767
A widow wrote this epitaph in a Vermont cemetery:
Sacred to the memory of
my husband John Barnes
who died January 3, 1803
His comely young widow, aged 23, has
many qualifications of a good wife, and
yearns to be comforted.
In a Ribbesford, England, cemetery:
The children of Israel wanted bread
And the Lord sent them manna,
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,
And the Devil sent him Anna.
In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:
Here lies an Atheist
All dressed up
And no place to go.
Then there’s Winston Churchill (1874-1965) . . who declares in his epithet:
I am ready to meet my Maker,
Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter!