What would you like written on your tombstone?
I was part of a selection process recently where people were asked this among the questions.
I was reminded of this recently as I came across a variety of grave stones in different situations.
Well first of all I don’t favour a memorial of the form of the extraordinary inscription of Bridgett Applethwaite, at Bramfield in Suffolk, (photograph here) which reads:
….After the fatigues of a married life bravely born by her with Incredible Patience for four years and three quarters bating three weeks; and after the Enjoiment of the Glorious Freedom of an Easy and Unblemish’t widowhood, for four years and upwards, She resolved to run the risk of a second Marriage-bed. But DEATH forbade the banns, and having with an Apopleptick dart (the same instrument with which he had formerly dispatch’t her Mother) Touch’t the most vital part of her brain. She must have fallen Directly to the ground (as one Thunder-strook) if she had not been catch’t and supported by her Intended Husband. Of which invisible bruise, after a Struggle for above sixty hours, with that Grand Enemy of Life (but the certain and MercifulFriend to Helpless Old Age) In Terrible Convulsions, Plaintive Groans or Stupefying Sleep, without recovery of her speech or senses, She dyed on ye 12th day of September in ye year of Our Lord 1737 and of her own Age 44.
Poor Bridgett. This must be one of the most preposterous of memorials! Who on earth would write such a memorial. The dear lady remembered only for the fatigues and illnesses of her life…
Now – rather different, what about the memorial to C B Fry in Repton churchyard.
The tombstone inscription reads:
1872 C B Fry 1956. Cricketer, Scholar, Athlete, Author – The Ultimate All Rounder.
Sounds very much an Englishman’s grave…
And from a very different place - from the churchyard in Honningsvag, Nordkapp at the far north of Norway.
Some other graves nearby also add ‘Fred’ – Peace.
There is a lovely ambiguity here. Is the ‘Thanks’- to the deceased for what they gave, or to God for the deceased… Is the ‘Peace’ a statement or a prayer?
And finally a thought from fiction. In Mystery Mile, in her Albert Campion series, Margery Allingam has her enigmatic hero in a sticky situation in which he contemplates his tombstone inscription, coming up with: Here lie I, poor Albert Campion. Death was bad but life was champion!
So what would you like on your gravestone?