Having the Last Laugh

October 11, 2012
Write a funny epitaph for either a friend or a foe. You might even want to imagine the type of marker on which you’d like to have your words carved for posterity.


A ”Fond Farewell” Article

When I changed Support4Change to a new format, I needed to delete some articles that didn’t fit in the new site but were too good to completely throw away. So I have moved many of them here to the blog, where they will still be available and people can find them by using tags. Enjoy.

Today’s Fond Farewell is part of the former Take-a-Break series. Use today’s post as a respite from today’s “to-dos” and have a little fun.


Epitaph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While visiting a relative, I also visited their bathroom, where I discovered Uncle John’s Great Big Bathroom Reader by the “Bathroom Readers’ Institute.” Didn’t know there was such a thing, but it just goes to show what people will do these days to make a buck.

When I looked to see what kinds of things one is supposed to read in the bathroom, it happened to opened on a page called “The Last Laugh: Epitaphs”, which was one of the shorter pieces. However, if you needed to be there for a longer time, there were also articles of medium length and longer ones for extended sitting. As I read some of the epitaphs that have been carved onto tombstones, I could see how having such a book would make time fly when nature calls.

I especially enjoyed these two:

Here lies John Timothy Snow,
who died fighting for a lady’s honor.
(She wanted to keep it.)
—Tombstone, Arizona

❋ ❋ ❋ ❋ ❋ ❋ ❋ ❋ ❋ ❋ ❋

Beneath this grassy mound now rests
One Edgar Oscar Earl,
Who to another hunter looked
Exactly like a squirrel.
— England

These gave me an idea for this Take-a-Break because it reminded me of other humorous and unusual epitaphs I’ve heard through the years. Before I explain what I mean, I liked to share some others that come from R.I.P.: The Complete Book of Death and Dying by Constance Jones and a book by Thomas Mann and Janet Greene called Over Their Dead Bodies..yankee Epitaphs & History, which is no longer available in print. At a time when gravestones are often engraved with only names and dates, I hope you enjoy these tombstone inscriptions as much as I do.

The ones I particularly like are those in which a person’s name is cleverly used, since I enjoy a good pun. For example, my husband’s favorite line, upon introduction to someone who apologizes for a name that is hard to pronounce, is, “Your name may be difficult, but mine is Harder.” In any case, here are four name epitaphs.

Beza Wood, who died in Winslow, Maine, in 1837 is compared to her coffin.

Here lies one Wood
Enclosed in wood
One Wood
Within another.
The outer wood
Is very good:
We cannot praise
The other.

In Tombstone, Arizona, the essence of the old “Wild West,” is this famous epitaph:

Here lies
Lester Moore
Four slugs
from a 44
no Les
no more

In Bath Abbey, England, is another famous pun:

Here lies Ann Mann;
She lived an old maid and
She died an Old Mann.

Then there’s a name epitaph that is so clever I wonder if it really existed, or if all the survivors of men named Pease were equally clever. It was reported to have been in a Nantucket, Massachusetts, graveyard as well as in Searport, Maine. In Barre, Vermont, it was for a Solomon Pease.

Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there’s only the pod:
Pease shelled out and went to God.

What strikes me about these epitaphs is that, unless the wishes of the deceased are honored, the survivors get to decide what will appear on the tombstone. And if a couple didn’t get along well in life, it sure helps to be the remaining spouse, as a tombstone in Hardwick, Vermont, clearly demonstrates. The inscription on “his” side doesn’t make much sense until you read the words she’s had carved on “her” side.

Marshall Willie
1872 – 1944
He Never Did

His wife:

Della Longe
1876 –
She Always Did Her Best

Then there was the wife in Potterne, Wiltshire, England, who got in the last word posthumously, although maybe it was her family who realized her life with old John had been especially miserable.

Here lieth
Mary—the wife of John Ford
We hope her soul is gone to the Lord
But if for Hell she changed this life
She had better be there than be John Ford’s wife

To give men their due, in Burlington, Massachusetts, is a monument that reads:

Sacred to memory of Anthony Drake,
Who died for peace and quietness sake;
His wife was constantly scolding and scoffin’
So he sought for repose in a twelve dollar coffin.

The second line of an epitaph in Massachusetts gives you a hint that this woman didn’t write her own epitaph.

To the memory of Mary Gold,
Who was gold in nothing but her name,
She was a tolerable woman for an acquaintance
But old Harry himself couldn’t live with her:
Her temper was furious
Her tongue was vindictive
She resented a look and frowned at a smile,
And was sour as vinegar:
She punished the earth upwards of 40 years,
To say nothing of her relations.

Now that you’ve come to the end of these epitaphs, you may have a good idea for doing today’s Take-a-Break. Of course, it may take more than a few minutes to come up with something humorous, so that’s why this is a Longer Break and not a Quick or Moderate Break. No matter how long you take, try as hard as you can to clearly express your opinion of that person’s character.

© Copyright 2001, Arlene Harder, MA, MFT

 Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


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