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What Do You Write on a Headstone? | Colonial Funeral Home

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What Do You Write on a Headstone?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

When you lose a loved one, you will likely spend some time wondering what do you write on a headstone. A short message referred to as an epitaph is usually added to a headstone along with a person’s name, birth date, and death date. Typically, the goal of the epitaph is to leave some words of wisdom, share the most important values of the deceased, or summarize the person’s life. It represents a bond between the living and the dead.

what do you write on a headstone Colonial Funeral Home

Writing the epitaph can be a very difficult job. How do you summarize an entire life in a few short words? If your loved one did not request a specific headstone inscription, it is usually recommended to take some time before you write the epitaph. Right after they are gone, you will be experiencing a whirlwind of emotions. You may end up regretting the words you choose if you don’t give yourself time to clear your head and think.

Tips for Writing an Epitaph

· Less is usually better when it comes to epitaphs. Usually you are limited to a few lines on the headstone so you want to make it short and concise.

· Think about the voice of the person speaking. You could write the epitaph as if it was being spoken by the deceased, a relative, or friend.

· Do you want the epitaph to be spoken directly to an audience or do you want to just describe the deceased’s life? This is a personal choice and it depends on the deceased. If they were someone that people would go to for advice, you might want the epitaph to convey some final words of wisdom.

· Make sure what you write is timeless. Remember, these words will be there forever.

Epitaph Examples

Writing an epitaph can be done in a number of different ways. Some people like to reference the life role of the deceased, others have a bible verse written, some a classic quote, and others select to have an image of their loved one laser engraved on the tombstone.


Simple or Classic Epitaphs

Many people like to select a simple or classic epitaph to pay tribute to their loved one.

To love is to place our happiness in the happiness of another.

- Leibnitz


The end and the reward of toil is rest.

- James Beattie


He hath awakened from the dream of life.

- Shelley


Mutual love, the crown of all our bliss. 

- Milton


Referencing Life Roles

Some people may want the headstone engraving to reference the different roles they had in life. If the deceased was specifically proud of something they did such as being a parent, nurse, or a school teacher you may want that acknowledged.

Here lies a beloved wife, mother & daughter.

Here lies a soldier who served his/her country well.

Scholar, Teacher, Leader, Friend.

Beloved by family, cherished by friends.


Quotes from the Bible

If the deceased was a devout Christian, you may want to consider writing a verse from the bible. We recommend you read through the bible and try to select a verse that speaks to you about your loved one’s life.

Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:15


They can no longer die; for they are like the angels.

Luke 20:36


Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

23rd Psalm


The righteous shall go into life eternal.

Matthew 25:46



An excerpt from a poem could make for a great gravestone engraving. This could be something you have written, or the work of someone else. If it is the latter, make sure you credit the author for the words. This is a great option for those who loved poetry or literature.

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

- John Donne


Sorrow passed, and plucked the golden blossom.

- Emily Bronte


Softly the leaves of memory fall,

Gently I gather and treasure them all.

Unseen, unheard,

You are always near,

So missed, so loved, so very dear.

- Colin Godon-Farleigh

Laser Engraved Photo

Some people choose to have a photo of their loved one or of a symbol laser engraved on the tombstone. This can replace or be added along with an epitaph.  Generally, a polished black granite tombstone is used.


Celebrity Epitaphs

Many celebrities have interesting epitaphs on their gravestones. Some are funny, some offer wisdom, but all of them reflect the life of the individual. Below is a selection of some famous epitaphs of celebrities.

Martin Luther King Jr.  

Martin Luther King Jr tombstone engraving

 Free at Last. Free at last.

Thank God Almighty 

I'm Free at Last.

"Martin Luther King Jr memorial" (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by Leo Reynolds


Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra epitaph examples

The Best is Yet to Come

Frank Sinatra's Grave in Cathedral City, California, USA” by Diagram Lajard


Bette Davis

Bette Davis epitaph examples She did it the hard way

Bette Davis Epitaph” by Wildhartlivie is licensed under CC BY 3.0


Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens famous epitaphs

Athlete and humanitarian. A master of the spirit as well as the mechanics of sports. A winner who knew that winning was not everyting. He showed extraordinary love for his family and friends. His achievements have shown us all the promise of America. His faith in America inspired countless others to do their best for themselves and their county. 

"Jesse Owens" (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by reallyboring

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth headstone engraving


the divine spirit

that animated 

Babe Ruth

to win the crucial 

game of life

inspire the youth

of America!"

- Cardinal Spellman

"Peace Hat : ”I was with the Babe today”" (CC BY 2.0) by Tony Fischer Photography

Feel free to contact us at 718-351-5858 or at for further advice with writing an epitaph. We would love to help you come up with an epitaph that properly honors you or your loved one. 



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