Epitaph Examples - Having The Last Word by Hammerle Finley Law Firm

What Is An Epitaph?

n. An inscription on a tomb, showing that virtues acquired by death have a retroactive effect. Following is a touching example:
Here lie the bones of Parson Platt,/ Wise, pious, humble and all that,/ Who showed us life as all should live it;/ Let that be said — and God forgive it!

Short Epitaph Examples

Your epitaph may be your last and best chance to rewrite your history. Do not let it go to waste. Good epitaphs tell a story, sometimes in 4 words or less. Placement and language matter. Architect Christopher Wren left his epitaph in Latin in Saint Paul’s Cathedral: Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice (“If you seek [his] monument, look around you.”)
If your lifetime achievements do not include fluency in Latin and construction of a giant church, don’t despair. You could do worse than these epitaphs:

  • “That’s All Folks” Mel Blanc
  • “There Goes the Neighborhood” Rodney Dangerfield
  • “Go Away – I’m Asleep” Joan Hackett
  • “She did it the Hard Way” Bette Davis
  • “I’m A Writer/But Then/Nobody’s Perfect” Billy Wilder
  • “Let ‘er rip” Leslie Nielsen
  • “Damn It’s Dark/Down Here” Frances E. Thatcher
  • “Excuse My Dust” Dorothy Parker
  • “I will Not Be Right Back/After This Message” Merv Griffin
  • “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” Dean Martin
  • “Quoth the Raven, Nevermore” Edgar Allan Poe
  • “The Best is Yet to Come” Frank Sinatra
  • “Shall I be Gone Long?” Cecil Day-Lewis
  • “Shit Happens” Edith Tina Barlow 1941-1991

Long Form Epitaph Examples

Some epitaphs are a bit longer to tell a story:

  • “Abandoned in Old Age/By Wife and Children/May God Be More Understanding/And Merciful” Andrew J. Olszak 1895-1979
  • “Lost Life by Stab in Falling on/Ink Eraser, Evading Six Young/Women Trying to Give Him/Birthday Kisses in Office/Metropolitan Life Building” Geo Spencer Feb. 15, 1894-Feb. 15, 1909
  • “He Never Killed A Man/That Did Not Need Killing” Robert Clay Allison 1840-1887 (accomplished gunslinger)
  • “May Eternal Damnation Be/Upon Those in Whaling Port/Who, Without Knowing Me, Have Maliciously Vilified Me/May the Curse of God/Be Upon Them and Theirs” Mary Dolencie (she was mad at her housing association over a dispute about her cat and pigeons)
  • “My Wife Eleanor Arthur/ of Queens,N.Y. Lived Like/ a Princess for 20 Years/ Traveling the World With/The Best of Everything./When I Went Blind,/She Tried to Poison Me./Took All My Money,/All My Medication And/Left me IN the Dark./Alone And Sick./It’s A Miracle I Escaped/I Won’t See Her in Heaven/Because She’s Surely /Going to Hell!” Herman Harband 1918
  • “My Brother Was Good at Pissing People Off” Cecil O’Dell Eads Dec. 14, 1934-Sept. 4, 1993
  • “Ma Loves Pa – Pa Loves Women/Ma Caught Pa with 2 In Swimmin/Here Lies Pa…” Lawrence L. Cook Jr.
  • “I Am Ready To Meet My Maker. Whether My Maker is Prepared for the Great Ordeal of Meeting Me is Another Matter” Winston Churchill
  • “I Told You I Was Ill” Spike Milligan

Some epitaphs take a political parting shot:
“Through this inscription I wish to enter my dying protest against what is called the Democratic party I have watched it closely since the days of Jackson and know that all the misfortunes of our nation have come to it through this so-called party therefore beware of this party of treason.” Nathaniel Grigsby (he was a friend of Lincoln)
“He Never Voted For Republicans/And Had Little To Do With Them” Bill Kugle (former member of the Texas House of Representatives)

Still stumped about what to put on your gravestone? There are several websites that will help you generate a memorable epitaph. Take the time to write yours before someone else writes it for you.

Virginia Hammerle is an attorney with Hammerle Finley Law Firm whose practice includes probate law, estate planning and contested litigation. To receive her newsletter contact her at legaltalktexas@hammerle.com