What Will Your Epitaph Say?

For the Fayette News


I have a favorite Presbyterian minister from all my years in church. I grew up in the Conyers Presbyterian Church but when I moved to Atlanta after college and before I married, I was a member of Peachtree Presbyterian Church on Roswell Road in Buckhead. It still is a megachurch and today averages about 3,200 in weekly worship. When I attended it was (and still is) one of the largest Presbyterian congregations in the United States of America. My pastor was Dr. Frank W. Harrington.

Perhaps you have heard of him? Dr. Harrington was the senior minister during the time when it was the largest Presbyterian (U.S.A.) church in North America. During his tenure, the church had fewer than 3,000 members when he arrived in 1971. When he died in 1999, there were more than 11,000.

He described Peachtree Presbyterian as “a big church that feels more like a small town” and he worked to keep that atmosphere. He cared about people and always knew his parishioners by name, understanding their circumstances, and tended to them in their time of need.

This man had a message! But he often peppered it with humor. I think that’s why I felt so deeply about him. His humor helped me and I am sure others in his congregation to remember his messages. He performed my wedding ceremony in 1983. There was even a hic-cup in our ceremony that people talked about for a long time after (this comical blame goes to my hubby!).

I always asked the church office for a copy of each of his sermons because they inspired me when I needed his guidance again (still do) and one was entitled, WHAT WILL YOUR EPITAPH SAY? (February 11, 1990). We know that the word ‘epitaph’ is an inscription on or at a tomb or grave in memory of one buried there. The second definition, though, is more to the point: “a brief statement epitomizing a deceased person.”

I truly think Dr. Harrington wouldn’t mind if I took the liberty to have a little levity with this idea.

I have enjoyed my book with tombstone humor, FAMOUS LAST WORDS & TOMBSTONE HUMOR by Gyles Brandreth. Some of the following epitaphs come from this book and some I researched on the internet. The ones I have found are mostly witty and I hope, as you read, you’ll enjoy a bit of humor in these hesitant times we now find ourselves.

They may not all be true, but even so, I hope they provide a short chuckle to your day. Here are some engraved in stone.

J.R. Webb

“Stick and stones will break my bones

But words can never harm me.”

Just my luck…they had plenty of sticks and stones.


No name
Reincarnating: I’ll be right back.

(So, don’t touch my stuff!)


No name

The shell is here

But the nut is gone.


Claire Voyance

She should have seen it coming.


Herman Harband

My wife Eleanor Arthur of Queens, N.Y.

Lived like a princess for 20 years traveling the

World with the best of everything.

When I went blind, she tried to poison me, took

All my money, all my medication, and left me alone

In the dark.  Alone and sick, it’s a miracle I escaped.

I won’t see her in heaven because she’s surely going to hell.


Kay’s Fudge (no last name)

2 sq. chocolate, 2 TBS. butter, melt on low heat.

Stir in 1 cup milk and bring to a boil.

Add 3 cups sugar, 1 TBS. vanilla, and pinch of salt.

Cook to soft ball stage. Pour on marble slab. Cool & beat* & eat.

*(I don’t make fudge so I don’t know what it means to beat on a marble slab before eating.)


Henry W. Neu, Jr.

The black sheep of the family.

But I’ve had fun on this earth.


What would you like for your epitaph to say? Mine may say, “In my defense, I was left unsupervised.”

More to come…