20 famous & inspiring epitaphs (add your own).

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” 

~ Mark Twain

Life is short. Love is vast. Time is now.

Whoever you are, wherever you’re at, whatever they’re trying to sell you, there are two things you should be certain of: you were born at some point and you are going to die at another.

There is no escape. No remedy to this human issue.

And perhaps, if we wrote this simple, heartbreaking, yet liberating notion, in permanent marker on our bathroom mirror; perhaps by being reminded and aware of our mortality, with new eyes, each morning, we’d make a better use of our perceived immortality.

Maybe due to a strong awareness of death—and, like most of our tired and depressed XXI century life-travelers, maybe a small unspoken fascination with lifeless mystery—I find an irresistible blend of romance and nostalgia in walking through old, historical cemeteries on cloudy days, and reading the tombstones…taking mental pictures and heart notes.

 

{Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris / via RedBubble.com}

 

They say that in order to find out about a city—in order to really find out—don’t go to its museums and monuments, go to its cemeteries.

Because, as Steve Jobs so intensely reminded us:

“… almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

So I’ve collected a few of my favorite epitaphs—some clever, others inspiring—for you (for me).

To help us remember their past and our present.

 

A tomb now suffices him for whom the world was not enough. ~ Alexander the Great

 

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The best is yet to come. ~ Frank Sinatra

 

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I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. ~ Winston Churchill

 

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Well this was fun, let’s dit again sometime. ~ Quniaron Bellthing

 

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She did it the hard way. ~ Bette Davis

 

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Hey Ram (Translation: “Oh, God”). ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

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Don’t Try. ~ Charles Bukowski

 

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Here lies a man who knew how to enlist the service of better men than himself. ~ Andrew Carnegie

 

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So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald (same as the last line of The Great Gatsby.)

 

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Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m Free At Last. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

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Truth to your own spirit. ~ Jim Morrison

 

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Here lies one whose name was writ in water. ~ John Keats

 

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Workers of all lands unite. The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. ~ Karl Marx

 

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Called back. ~ Emily Dickinson

 

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A Gentle Man and a Gentleman. ~ Jack Dempsey

 

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Curiosity did not kill this cat. ~ Studs Terkel 

 

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I told you so, you damned fools. ~ H. G. Wells

 

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Against you I will fling myself unvanquished and unyielding, O Death! ~ Virginia Woolf

 

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The Stone the Builders Rejected. ~ Jack London (The second half of this quote, found in the Bible, reads “has become the capstone.” but London only included the first half.)

 

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Never born, Never died: visited the planet earth between December 11, 1931 and, January 19, 1990. ~ Osho

 

{Statue in Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris}

If this doesn’t inspire you to make your own, I don’t know what will.

Wait. Don’t be mortified, death is really not morbid. Only life could be. Death is Not (Anything).

Mark Twain, again, on the other line:

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

Like most fear, fear of death is also an illusion, since it’s only from life that we can actually contemplate anything; look death in the face and at least be able to choose our own epitaph.

As Active Designers of Life and Stubborn Creators of Fate, by choosing and knowing what will be written on our stone, we might turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy; so instead of just a pretty quote, it will eventually become the marrow of our lives.

In my case, I’ll always be upset with Robert Frost for writing what I would have probably come up with, had “the ancients not stolen my best thoughts.”

“And were an epitaph to be my story,
I’d have a short one ready for my own. 
I would have written of me on my stone.
I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”

And ever since I became a Kerouac convert, I’m flirting with his “Live, Travel, Adventure, Bless and Don’t be sorry,” said in past tense, third person.

Don’t think it’s a déjà vu, if you ever stumble upon a tombstone that looks like me and reads:

She lived, traveled, blessed, [loved], adventured…and she wasn’t sorry.

(You can borrow this if you want, Jack and I don’t mind being dead with you.)

But I also have this fatal disease called Writer’s Pride, so I might just write my own.

 

{Via ArtFlakes.com}

 

And while we’re here, Living Wonder, don’t forget…
“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is…at last, to love it for what it is, and then to put it away.” ~ Virginia Woolf

 

*****

Read More: 

>>Seven things I won’t do today. 

>>How time sits on your face: 100 years in 150 seconds. 

 

 

{“I told you I was sick.”}

 

 

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Andrea Balt
Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Rebelle Society, Wellness Alchemist at Rebelle Wellness & Professional Dream Chaser at Creative Rehab. Unfinished book with a love for greens, bikes and poetry; raised by wolves & adopted by people; not trying to make art but to Be Art. Holds a BA in Journalism & Mass Communication, an MFA in Creative Writing & a Holistic Health Coach degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. In her work she tries to reflect the wholeness of the human experience by combining Art & Health + Mind & Body + Darkness & Brilliance into a more alive, unabridged and unlimited edition of ourselves. She is also on a quest to reinstate Creativity as one of our essential Human Rights to (hopefully and soon) be included in the UN Declaration. Connect with her in the Social Media Jungle via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and sign up for her FREE MuseLetter.

48 Comments

  • Rebelle Society
    Rebelle Society commented on September 15, 2012 Reply
    Via Facebook:

    Jay Michael: Here’s mine…. “I beat ‘cha!”
    3 hours ago · Like · 2

    Tracey Lincoln: Here lies Tracey Lincoln. Tentative, but confident. Gentle, but courageous. Honest, strong and brave. She was a survivor. She finally claimed Peace, Love and serenity as her own.
    55 minutes ago · Like · 2
  • Richard La Rosa
    Richard La Rosa commented on September 15, 2012 Reply
    “Just stepped out for a stroll. I’ll be back. Please put the kettle on for coffee and save me a dance.”
    • Selasi commented on November 30, 2013 Reply
      really nice
  • flytrapjournals commented on September 15, 2012 Reply
    Heres my Epitaph. ” Caos looks beautiful from a distance” From Siobhan Fogarty Authour of Flytrap Journals.
  • Braja Sorensen
    Braja Sorensen commented on September 17, 2012 Reply
    “What a bloody waste of a perfectly good slab of granite. Someone move this thing, would you?”
  • Braja Sorensen
    Braja Sorensen commented on September 17, 2012 Reply
    Or, “Sorry to disappoint you but I’m not in right now. Leave a message, but don’t hold your breath….”
  • karl saliter commented on September 18, 2012 Reply
    Oddly enough, “Life is short, speak your mind” is a pretty good one by itself. Today I’m thinking: “This is even better than the national do not call list.” would look good on black granite.
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on September 19, 2012 Reply
      Oh no! We’ve unknowingly used an epitaph as our Comment Message…
  • Andrea Balt
    Andrea Balt commented on September 19, 2012 Reply
    Thanks for sharing your tombstones and giving us a good, undead laugh. Love!
    • augram74 commented on September 17, 2014 Reply
      “Forever in eternity”
  • Nicholas Black Darquea commented on October 2, 2012 Reply
    “Life is a jest and all things show it; I thought so once, but now I know it” John Gay
  • Occam49 commented on October 3, 2012 Reply
    Fear of death is regret for having not lived. – Occam49
  • Richard La Rosa
    Richard La Rosa commented on November 10, 2012 Reply
    Nothing left here. I’ve recycled myself back into the population.
  • Tet commented on November 10, 2012 Reply
    You made it worth living; you who brought out my best, let me grab some rest.
  • Suresh Nair commented on April 9, 2013 Reply
    If I may rain a little on this joyous parade of self-epitaphs – I’ve yet to read anything more desolate than this poetic description of the inevitable dissolution into nothingness of our worldly ambitions by Percy Shelley, believed to be inspired by a statue of Ramesses II (“Ramesses the Great’): I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear: `My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’ Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.
  • Prerna S commented on May 22, 2013 Reply
    Really like the one by Osho – Never born and never died, probably has a very deep spiritual meaning attached to it.
  • Fenix commented on June 7, 2013 Reply
    THIS IS BULLSHIT
  • Fenix commented on June 7, 2013 Reply
    IF YOU READ THIS YOU WILL DIE
    • Chantel Hernandez commented on November 13, 2013 Reply
      Really? If you’re gonna be disrespectful, feel free to leave.! ^^ Seriously grow up :’C
  • Kevin commented on October 29, 2013 Reply
    (Variation on Hamlet) He was a man. Taken for all in all, I shall not see his like again–just like any other.
  • wingedream commented on October 29, 2013 Reply
    why Look back ?
  • barryjohnjohnson commented on October 30, 2013 Reply
    Just Passing Through
  • Chantel Hernandez commented on November 13, 2013 Reply
    Thanks for the help. You guys are truly inspirational! Loves!
  • James commented on January 12, 2014 Reply
    Anglo-Irish comedian Spike Milligan’s gravestone bears one line, in Irish. It translates into English as “I told you I was ill!”
  • Kay commented on May 2, 2014 Reply
    Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
  • luke commented on July 14, 2014 Reply
    I had once read on a country gravestone erected to a child of six: “Since I was so early done for, I wonder what I was begun for”.
  • Anomitra commented on September 21, 2014 Reply
    Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms. Che Guevara This is the best I have ever come across.
  • I. C. Nil commented on October 8, 2014 Reply
    ORDER THE BACON SANDWICH
  • fergusw1 commented on October 13, 2014 Reply
    I have just published a list of tasteful epitaphs. I hope it makes a change from the commercial lists you see on the web. http://stoneletters.com/blog/memorial-quotes-headstone-epitaphs
  • Ashwani Joshi commented on October 24, 2014 Reply
    Lucky was I too, for the award of a some human years.
  • Dr Abhijit Ghose commented on January 2, 2015 Reply
    We used to come to do some duty to the world. When it is over the machine automatically stopped the function. It will be recharged and will be fixed some where we do not know. Let us do our work with all of our best. Trust ourselves os the best answer. No Born No Death. Just casually move around to finish the work Almighty has given to do. https;//Plus.google.com/+Abhijit Ghose 1948
  • Brittany commented on April 17, 2015 Reply
    I’ve always loved this one: “From my body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity”-Edvard Munch. I find it particularly appropriate, because I intend to be buried in a Bios urn (a bio-degradable urn which converts you into a tree via a seed planted in your ashes).
  • Will Peterson commented on April 22, 2015 Reply
    “Step right up, bargains galore,” It was so much fun, It is so much fun. We’re all winners of a lottery, you’d think we’d never stop dancing.
  • Tim commented on April 22, 2015 Reply
    I was a man Just like any other man Unlike any other man
  • Joe Van Conett commented on April 23, 2015 Reply
    S’Been Real, Don’t Mind a Change.

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