On your gravestone?

ApplethwaiteFr Ian writes… Here is a sobering question – but light hearted too!

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.

The grave of C B Fry

The grave of C B Fry

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.

Eilertsen 2A much more simple style. The gravestone of a local person Per Cedolf Eilertsen simply gives his name the dates of life and the word ‘Takk’ – the Norwegian for ‘Thanks.’

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 Allingham 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?



About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community where people of differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2364267899/
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3 Responses to On your gravestone?

  1. Fliss Morgan says:

    What an interesting topic…lovely to read of other gravestone inscriptions.
    Having just returned from the beautiful Somerset village of Buckland Dinham for my uncle’s funeral, I spent some time in the peaceful church yard where he is now buried. I look forward to seeing what is on his head stone as he was a funny and much loved man.
    On a lighter note, it always made me laugh when the brilliant comedian Spike Milligan was alive, as he always joked that he wanted the words ‘I told you I was ill’ on his headstone.
    I have recently read of this good news (for him):

    “Relatives of the former Goon have now decided that it can bear the star’s epitaph: “I told you I was ill.” However, the inscription had to be written in Gaelic in order for it to be approved by the Chichester Diocese. Milligan, who was an Irish passport holder, was buried close to his home in Udimore after he died, aged 83, from liver failure in February 2002. But fans visiting his grave found it was only marked by some plants and a small statue because his family had been unable to agree on the headstone. We’re very pleased it’s been resolved and with such a classic Spike line. It now bears the words “Duirt me leat go raibh me breoite”, or “I told you I was ill”, and the English words “Love, light, peace”.

    I still have to decide on what I would like written on mine – I’m sure there are a few people who have some interesting suggestions! – but when I have decided, I will let you know 🙂

  2. Here are a few suggestions arising from this the post we’ve had on a Facebook group:

    “she was fun while she lasted”
    “Consider, friend, as you pass by: As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, you too shall be. Prepare, therefore, to follow me.”
    ” I did it my way”
    “I TOLD you I was sick.”
    ” In the Hope of the Resurrection”
    “We have a relative who has “She did what she could””

  3. Trish says:

    I rather like the honesty of Bridgett’s epitaph, but I don’t want even a grave, let alone a gravestone – just scatter my ashes around a rose bush – then toast my memory with champagne and cake 🙂

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