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Honor the Departed with a Heartfelt Epitaph

Martin Luther King Jr.’s epitaph, ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m Free At Last,’ are lyrics of an old African-American spiritual he frequently quoted. His wife, Coretta Scott King, was honored with a biblical epitaph. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Honoring the deceased with an epitaph can be a challenging and emotional task. Epitaphs are typically short and concise. A great epitaph will honor the life of the departed in just a few heartfelt words. The words should truly reflect the personality and life of the loved one.

Most headstones include the full name of the deceased and dates of birth and death. Some also include ancestral relationships and lifetime accomplishments.

An epitaph can be as simple as “Loving father, husband, uncle” or more elaborate such as a favorite quote, song lyric, Bible verse, or description.

Find inspiration in these famous epitaphs, which pay tribute to the memories and accomplishments of the departed:

  • Alexander the Great: “A tomb now suffices him for whom the world was not enough”
  • Andrew Carnegie: “Here lies a man who knew how to enlist the service of better men than himself”
  • Robert Frost: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world”
  • Rosa Parks: “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement”
  • Edgar Allan Poe: “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore’”
  • Frank Sinatra: “The best is yet to come”

When designing a headstone, consider including more than just words. With today's technology, epitaphs can include symbols, letters, and numbers. A gravestone can be etched with a photograph of a loved one as well.

When choosing symbols or photos that will become a permanent piece of the stone, be sure the symbol is appropriate for the person being honored. A great epitaph should reflect the principles, beliefs, and values of the individual.

Even if remains are cremated, a marker might be necessary. Cremated remains can be interred in a columbarium with a marker or buried with a traditional gravestone.

The average cost of a headstone can range from $1,000 for a simple, flat grave marker to more than $10,000 for an elaborate, upright headstone. The more intricate the design, the more expensive the marker.

Consult one of the local monument dealers in this guide. Local shops always have the best information about the rules and regulations of nearby cemeteries. After choosing a funeral director, a venue for service, and a burial plot, a local monument provider should be next on the list.

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