Ideas for Gravestone Inscriptions

Future generations will read your gravestone inscription on visits to the cemetery.

One of the most important decisions in making funeral arrangements is what to write on the headstone or etch onto a glass niche. Composing your own headstone inscription or that of a loved one can be a creative and enlightening process as you look over your or the person's life and accomplishments and decide how you want people to remember you or your loved one. The only limitation is the amount of space available.

1 Basic Elements

Gravestone inscriptions are usually divided into three sections: The heading includes words like “In Loving Memory”; the main body, which consists of the name, date of birth and death, and other appropriate wording, such as relationship to living family members; and a footnote line or verse.

Headstone manufacturers and funeral home representatives can provide suggestions, and you can choose generic inscriptions from their lists. However, if you want to come up with an original inscription, you might check to see if there are any restrictions or protocols required by the cemetery before you finalize your text.

2 Template

The basic template for a short gravestone inscription consists of five or six lines, usually centered on the gravestone.

Rest Now, Your Soul is Free [Heading] Ellie Hanes [Name] A Devoted Sister, Wife and Mother [Relationship/Optional] Born March 17, 1929 [Birth Date] Died February 1, 1999 [Date of Death] We love you always. [Verse or Footnote]

You can use this template to insert your own information and change the first and last lines. If you want something more elaborate, for instance, a longer heading or a longer verse, remember that you will pay for the engraving of each letter or word. Check prices and options before you compose the inscription.

3 Funny Inscriptions

Funny gravestone inscriptions are rare, but they do exist. Here are a few of them: “That’s All Folks!” —Mel Blanc; “She did it the hard way.” — Bette Davis, “Nothing in Moderation” — Ernie Kovacs. If you want a humorous gravestone inscription, you should write it now. Otherwise, your grieving relatives may come up with something far too somber for your taste. Here are a few suggestions to prime your imagination: Pardon me for not getting up, Gone fishing -- Permanently, I’d rather be golfing, Go ahead — I’m a sucker for praise, Almost no regrets.

4 Participants in Historical Events

Some people want to be remembered by notable things they accomplished or by their participation in an important or historical event. Soldiers in famous battles, civil rights activists, heads of state, and discoverers of lifesaving cures are not the only ones who deserve to note their contributions to the world they left behind. If you or a loved one accomplished something you want to be remembered by, or played a part in history, tell the world about it on the gravestone.

5 Considerations

Whether considering your own gravestone inscription or that of a loved one, it may be useful to jot down some ideas about personal passions, convictions, or interests that could inform or remind family members and visitors about the most important qualities of the deceased person. You might also consider the person’s favorite quote, things they said frequently, or cherished memories. Sometimes a song lyric or fragment says it best.

Lorena Cassady has written professionally since 1982. She was an instructor and mentor teacher for a Bachelor of Arts in management program and has administered a home-health agency. She has been published in "Traveler's Tales" and holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from San Francisco State University. Cassady is bilingual.