Grave Words

What will your last immortal words to the world be, those ‘carved in stone’ on the monument that marks your grave? For inspiration, here are some famous examples:

Merv Griffith: “I will not be right back after this message.”

Robert Frost: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”

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

Irish comedian Spike Milligan: “I told you I was ill.”

According to Park Service historian and cemetery researcher Jacqueline A. Lott, more than 30 percent of gravestones in Great Smoky Mountains National Park include epitaphs. Most seem to have been composed by those left behind rather than the deceased, perhaps because death often came suddenly to families in the Smokies, and much too soon.

Some of the most common epitaphs on monuments here are:

  • Gone but not forgotten
  • At rest
  • Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord
  • Budded on Earth to bloom in Heaven
  • Our darling
  • From mother’s arms to the arms of Jesus

And a few of the more unusual Smoky Mountain epitaphs include:

  • He was a lover of the woods and nature
  • Was blind here, but now sees the beauty of heaven
  • Upright and just in all the right ways, a bright example in degenerate days
  • A man of sterling character, as strong as the hills that surround him
  • To know her was to love her
  • Killed by North Carolina Rebels

Families also expressed their feelings in ways other than words. Flowers were the most common symbol to be carved in stone, a fitting tribute to a place with over 1,500 species of flowering plants. Other common symbols included a cross, dove, lamb, Bible, and dogwood tree.

Aden Carver, who helped build Mingus Mill, has one of the most poignant symbols on his headstone. It’s the outline of his great granddaughter’s small hand, eloquently traced in stone.

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