Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Last Laughs: Funny Tombstone Quotes and Famous Last Words" by Kathleen E. Miller

I found this book at the library today. I mean, I literally found it at the library. It wasn't a library book, and it was just sitting on a lonely shelf with maybe a dozen other not-library books, so the librarian sold it to me for 50 cents. I read it with half a mind toward the morbid thought that I might find an interesting (if not unique) idea for my own epitaph.

I am curious as to how this book was researched. The epitaphs were certainly not completely (if even partially) collected by the author's own wanderings through graveyards, first of all since they cover such a variety of locations (though mostly in Great Britain and the U.S.) and second of all because many of the locations are listed as "unknown." There is a bibliography of 21 books (and one web site!) that are all on the same topic--I would never have thought there were so many other books of this sort--so I would have to guess that this book is almost completely derived from other books. Which is OK, except that I have to wonder why it was necessary to have another such book, or what this one accomplished that the other 21 didn't.

Some of the epitaphs were so long that I had to wonder how large the headstone was, or how small the font. Some of them were quite humorous, but not all of them; some of them just made me sad. One mentioned the weight of the deceased, which was notable at 635 pounds. There were a few that were quite audacious, and even a couple that doubled as advertisements, if you can believe it. (One, of course, for marble-cutting services; one for the pub that the gravestone owner's son continued to run).

I suppose I would be remiss if I did not leave you with a few samples.

From Ruidoso, New Mexico (try to stifle your groan):

Here lies
Johnny Yeast
Pardon me
For not rising

Then there's the depressingly forlorn Gussie in Ocanto, Wisconsin:

Here lies the body of a girl who died
Nobody mourned, nobody cried
How she lived and how she fared
Nobody knew and nobody cared

and a head-scratcher from Snow Camp, North Carolina:

Here lies a virgin
with her babe
resting in her arms.

That one is listed as Anonymous, but surely her name was Mary. (Look! I can make corny jokes too! Though perhaps mine aren't quite as indelible.)

And perhaps my favorite, though "unverified," from Thurmont, Maryland:

Here lies an athiest
All dressed up
And no place to go

So that was a quick, fun, and different way to spend fifty cents. Now I'll see if I can get rid of it on paperbackswap.


Kathy said...

Oh, and I guess I should have mentioned that I did not find any good epitaph ideas for myself. I don't plan on needing one for a long, long time anyway.

Nymeth said...

lol, I love that last one.

Amanda said...

I actually think the book sounds very interesting. I'd like to see more. Here's one from an older stone in a graveyard near where I grew up. It always kind of haunted me, see I remember it all these years later:

As you are now, and once was I
As I am now, and you shall be
Prepare for death and follow me