Epitaphs Tell a Story

I guess it’s the writer in me but I always love strolling through a cemetery. The buried stories are too many to number and I always wish I knew them all.

I can get a pretty good idea from the epitaphs carved on tombstones. Some are sad and some are hilarious, revealing a sense of humor. I wrote about a Texas Ranger once who was thinking about his epitaph and what he might be remembered for. It was in The Cowboy Who Came Calling with Luke McClain.

Here’s what he came up with: Here lies Luke McClain, he was one hell of a lawman. He fought injustice and crime wherever he found it. He gave generously of himself to make the world a safer place. He lived well and loved hard. He will be missed.

Of course, Glory Day told him he didn’t need to write a whole book. Her’s was: She lived. She died. End of story

The epitaphs told so much about each of them. Glory was going blind so she was at a low point in her life.


Here are some favorite ones that I found:

Old Ma Walker, Non stop talker, Ran out of breath, Talked herself to death

Here lies Shawn O’Toole, kicked in the head by an ornery mule

Here lies Lester Moore. Four slugs from a .44. No Les. No more.

Here lies George Johnson hanged by mistake 1882. He was right, We was wrong. But we strung him up and now he’s gone.

Here lies a man names Zeke. Second fastest draw of Cripple Creek

They abounded in riches. But she wore the britches.

Here lies Rosalie Tanner. A woman that spent most of her life on her back



I’ve often thought about what I would say on my tombstone. Maybe something like “I laughed. I cried. I lived.” Or maybe the opening lines of my book Forever His Texas Bride: “A plan? Definitely not dying.” 

What would you say on yours? Leave a comment to enter the drawing for one of 3 autographed copies of THE COWBOY WHO CAME CALLING.



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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

51 thoughts on “Epitaphs Tell a Story”

  1. A Texas Girl, Livin’ In A Kansas World.
    She adored her animals, loved her family and friends, she was God’s miracle, even at the end.

    • Hey, Miss Tonya! Yours should say “She always beat the rooster up.” Ha! But I do like the poem you wrote. That’s a great epitaph and tells so much about you! Most definitely. You let nothing stop you, not rain, sleet or headaches. You just keep right on living your life. I love you dearly.

  2. Morning this something I am not very good at. Love to read your things that you share. Some good ones. When I walk in the cemetery now I am really going to look at older ones. Have a blessed day.

  3. I enjoyed reading those. I need to get out for a walk in a cemetery again. I used to enjoy visiting them too. Mine would probably say “She loves cats more than most people”

    • Good morning, Janine! I love your epitaph and it reflects your preferences. That tells a quick story about who you are. Just don’t put a recipe on your tombstone. That’s a little crazy. LOL I wish we’d go back to that practice though of telling a little about the person who died. Have a wonderful day!

  4. these are funny, love the one with the recipe. I don’t think i would get one, I read they charge by the letter, lol

    • Good morning, Elaine! I’m so happy I could give you a laugh to start your day. I agree about the recipe one. Very different for sure and will never fade away. Hey, maybe that’s why the practice died out–it’s too expensive. Never thought of that. Have a very lovely day.

  5. I loved these. I am not sure what I would put on mine. There is a cemetery right up the street where I live. I went up there years ago and need to do it again. I always enjoyed going over there and just checking out the stones.

    • Good morning, Quilt Lady! You would probably put something about loving to quilt on yours. “Her creations stove off the winter chill.” Maybe. It’s great exercise walking in cemeteries. You should go. Plus it’s very entertaining. I just love it and the older they are, the better.

  6. We love walking through cemeteries and reading head stones. So much interesting info there! The old ones on Mackinac Island are great to read. I’ve always wanted something funny or witty on mine but can’t think of anything. These were good!

    • Good morning, Susan P! Walking in cemeteries is really great fun and it gives me lots of exercise too. I would like a witty one also but it’s hard to think of one. Those short poems are so cute yet tell so much. Have a beautiful day!

    • Good morning, Teresa F! I love your dad’s. He must’ve been truly unforgettable and maybe charismatic. Of course, that could be an ironic statement also. But it says a lot. Thanks for coming and sharing in the fun. Love and hugs!

  7. I’ve never thought about. I’m scared to think about death. It would probably say something about cats were here children.

    • Good morning, Cathy! I’m happy to see you. I think “Cats were her children” is a great epitaph. I can tell immediately what kind of person you are. Wishing you a lovely and blessed day.

  8. Good morning! I too love to read the the headstones in cemetaries. The babies and children are heartbreaking, especially those that just have a small rock. Now I want to go to a cemetary. Oh my, I don’t intend to have a headstone anymore. I want my body to go to science and then my girls can do with the rest of the ashes as they please. I imagine they’d lean toward a tree, a keepsake piece of jewelry and/or some other keepsake they make with ashes. So if I were to have a headstone, I think it might say, “She never met a stranger, she loved to cook, read, travel, shop, scroll through Facebook, laugh and talk. You could find her in a crowd if she laughed!” I figure generations from now the Facebook thing might be something people would have to look up and see what on earth it was! ?

    • Good morning, Dearest Steph! I think that epitaph would tell people exactly what kind of person you were. Most definitely. You sow kindness and love. Facebook…I think you’re right. No one will know what that is but I wonder what those people will be obsessed with. Our world is changing so rapidly it’s hard to keep up anyway. Blessings and love, Warrior Buddy! Love you dearly.

  9. I used to go to Cemeterys for Find a Grave on the internet. I would try and find gravestones for other people family members in vt.
    I think mine would say.
    Gave all to everyone else.
    Got nothing in return.

    • Good morning, Charlene! I didn’t know you did that. Wow! How interesting. And I think your epitaph probably hits right on the money if I were to venture a guess. Have a blessed day, dear friend. Love and hugs.

  10. We saw one near a river with heavy rapids that said something to the effect of, “In the river lies John. You’ve been warned.”
    For me? I think I’d keep things simple. She lived to inspire.

    • Good morning, Jess! I’m so happy to see you. What a strange epitaph at that river. Poor John. I take it he drowned. I really love yours. That says so much about you. It’s beautiful. I hope you’re feeling well and I guess getting ready for that baby. That’s exciting. Have a lovely day.

  11. Hi Linda … loved this post. The fudge recipe just hilarious! Yet a tribute. Good question … what to write on my tombstone. Maybe this:

    Lived well. Loved well. At home in Heaven.

    I don’t know. I would be happy with:

    Not born in the west, but her heart resides there.

    Love ya Linda! To be a Texan must be such an honor for you.

    • Good morning, Miss Kathy! I’m always so happy to see you and it puts a smile on my face. I like both of your epitaphs but especially the second one because it says so much more about your passion. When I wrote my post, I was really tired and couldn’t think of a thing to put for my epitaph. A more telling one for me would probably be “Love for Texas was in her heart, mind, and soul.” Because it really is. I never get my fill of reading about our rich history and the people who forged a lasting path. Have a lovely day, Miss Kathy. I love you dearly!

  12. Growing up in a small town, there was a cemetery that backed up to the park we always played in. Often we would go over or under the fence and walk in the cemetery (FORBIDDEN!) and read the epitaphs. So many epitaphs from back in the day were so poignant and lovely. Many of the tombstones had pictures on them (this was before people thought to vandalize them) and sometimes my best friend and I would read the dates and say, “OH, she was OUR AGE!” and so on. We made up stories about how they might have died and if the epitaph told about how the person died we talked about that. I remember Luke and Glory–yes, she said probably what I would put on mine. LOL Short and sweet. Great post, Linda!XOXO

    • Hi Cheryl! I used to live right next to a cemetery too and I used to walk in it everyday just for exercise. The majority of the graves were of blacks and they put such poignant verses on their tombstones. I loved reading them. It was like a book and was so interesting. Those cemeteries are full of stories. Love you dearly, Filly sister.

    • Hi Debra, thanks for coming! Those would sure tell your life’s story I’m sure. After this blog posted I kicked myself that I didn’t make up a better epitaph. I didn’t mention books or Texas or anything. I’m quite sure I’ll die with these characters still talking in my head. Ha! Have a wonderful day!

  13. Good morning, Linda,
    I especially love the fudge recipe! We have an old mine in our town and a small cemetery. Fascinating to see the names of people who came to the area to work, the entire families buried there, and sad to see how many children died young. On the lighter side, enjoyed your examples. We always had fun reading the epitaphs at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. As for me, I probably talk too much but I don’t really like flowery sentiment so I think “Bye” would do it. xx

    • Hi Sally! Graveyards are really so interesting. The babies really make me sad with the little lambs on top. You’re welcome for the fudge recipe. Ha! What a thing to leave on a tombstone. I wonder how many people have jotted it down. Too funny. And how sad about the man hanged by mistake. Poor fellow. Your epitaph is pretty cut and dried but I like it. The Hollywood TV guy Mel Blanc that was the voice for Bugs Bunny and many others had “That’s all folks” put on his tombstone. I thought that was funny. Have a blessed day, Sally.

  14. Well the recipe one is unique! 😀 I never thought of having anything to say… I told my family to place me in a pretty urn.

    • Hi Colleen, I don’t think anyone could top the recipe tombstone. Too funny. I might have the first lines of one of my books. Maybe: “A plan? Definitely not dying.” from Forever His Texas Bride. You have a blessed day!

  15. I would love mine to say “I Will Always Love you” I think cemeteries are very interesting also, I like to look at the different tombstone and find out how old the person was. Thank you for the chance.

    • Hi Alicia! I love that! What a very sweet thing to put. To me the dead are much more interesting than a lot of people. I spend hours and hours in cemeteries. There’s such a peace there. Have a blessed day, my dear!

    • Hey, Miss Glenda! I always love seeing you. I love your epitaph! It’s so you. You have such a large heart and seem to take in the whole world. Love you dearly.

  16. The one with the recipe is so neat, Linda. I don’t know what I’d have on mine, but I should give it some thought. I agree – headstones are so interesting.
    Have a fabulous day! Hugs!

    • Hi Shanna! I agree about the recipe in stone. LOL You probably have a long time before you reach this day. Don’t worry about it now. Sending love and big hugs.

  17. So many of the cemeteries in this area no longer allow upright tombstones. If the family was willing to pay the cost of an epitaph it would probably have to be short in order to fit on the marker. The older cemeteries have such interesting tombstones and they tell so much more about the person. I have never really thought about what would be on mine other than birth date and date of death which is all that is on the upright stones for my great grandparents and grandparents,along with their names.

    • Hi Alice, thanks for coming. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I agree about the older cemeteries. They’re much more interesting reading. They knew how to do things back then. Blessings, dear lady.

  18. Cemeteries are interesting places to roam. It is interesting to see how different cultures honor their dead. I find the tombstones for the children lovely and sad. I was surprised when we were in Canada, mostly French areas, that women were listed by their name and wife of – Patricia Lynch wife of John B. There were many cemeteries when the grave markers were large metal crosses. One church graveyard had the markers right next to each other in rows about 3 feet apart. We finally found someone who spoke english. It seems they needed more room for their parking lot. They left the bodies buried where they were and paved over the graves. The markers were moved to the other side of the church in neat rows.
    If we find many deaths in the same time period, we check local history. It was usually caused by an epidemic or natural disaster.

    As for what I would say on mine stone, I’m not sure. Maybe something like – “She loved her family and friends and tried to do the best she could to help others.” No need to enter my name in the giveaway. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

    • Hi Pat, that is a lovely sentiment for your epitaph. And one that’s very accurate. You’ve spent the better portion of your life giving to others. You’re the most giving person I know. How sad about the church graveyard and the graves paved over for parking. That’s happening everywhere. I’ve noticed too about a lot of deaths in the same time period and it usually pointing to some kind of epidemic or disaster. Here in Amarillo they had so many deaths in the Spanish Flu Epidemic that they had to bury in a mass grave holding hundreds. Thanks for coming to read my post. Keep reading and being curious. Love you, lady!

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