For many of us, a tombstone is our last and most durable public memento. It marks a place where loved ones can come to remember and reflect. A colleague notes that it also guarantees that, even if our loved ones don’t remember us, the person who mows the cemetery lawn will.
Tombstones may be small or large, simple or ornate. Besides marking the burial place of our physical remains, they also provide information: a name and at least a date or two, and often more.
Many tombstones include an epitaph, a few, pithy words from or about the deceased. You may want to choose your own epitaph in advance, unless you’d prefer that your family choose it for you, when you’re no longer around to disapprove.
We don’t expect good writing to be easy, but trying to summarize a long life – or even a short one – in a phrase or two is especially difficult.
We asked a few co-workers at MyHeritage’s US office, “What would you like on your tombstone?” We weren’t talking about pizza, but we might have had more responses if we had been. Apparently, a lot of people don’t want to think about the living – especially themselves – someday being, well, dead.
Our less squeamish colleagues offered a few suggestions, for themselves and for others.
Julie, whose husband is a firefighter, offered this for her husband:
“Stay out of the heat.”
Justin suggested a famous line attributed to Edmund Burke:
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
David offered two thoughts for his own epitaph that were serious . . .
“Better life beyond. See you there someday.”
“Son, brother, husband, father, and some lesser things.”
. . . and two that weren’t:
“Here lies Mr. Rodeback, dead,
In a box, with a rock on his head.
It’s too bad he never finished this limerick, because now it’s too late.”
“Check him out at dead.davidrodeback.com.”
(That’s not a real link, at least not yet.)
Clare selected this classic verse:
Here lies my wife.
I bid her goodbye.
She rests in peace,
And now so do I.
For myself, a name and the dates are just fine, and any great quote from scripture or a religious leader. What I really want on my tombstone is something new: a QR code. QR is for Quick Response. Visitors can scan the code and be taken quickly to a web site about the deceased (me).
The QR code can point to a YouTube video, a family tree, an obituary, or anything else you can find at a web page. It’s on a sticker attached to the stone. Some people don’t like how they look, but they’re catching on. Anyway, it must be only a matter of time before someone designs them to blend in better with the stone.
Imagine: Someone is in the cemetery, visiting my gravestone. A simple tap of a smartphone activates a link, which pulls up more information about me, the deceased: videos, memories, family trees, and more.
Scan the QR code on the tombstone picture to see how this works – I have included a large QR code to make it easy. And yes, you actually can scan this one here now on the computer screen. Your SmartPhone or iPad will then bring up the site where I have programed this code to take you.
Don’t have a QR code reader – download one from the App store. Here is the one I use.
Images, New and Old
Putting symbols on gravestones is not a new idea. In Boston in the 1700s, for example, there was often an image carved at the top of the stone – an angel, a skull, or something else – to protect the grave from various evils. (There is a lot of information online about the various symbols used on the tombstones. Here is information from the city of Boston about the many tombstone markings found there.)
I’ve noticed many modern tombstones which incorporate images to summarize a life: flowers, religious symbols, a car or truck, a favorite team’s logo, etc. Cooper, a boy I blogged about last year, has his photo etched in bronze on his tombstone. It’s a beautiful monument that his family visits often.
Laser engraving now allows the creation of tombstones with realistic, high-resolution photos engraved in the stone. (See a July 2011 article in The Atlantic.)
I’ve mentioned some of the possibilities. What do you want on your tombstone?