We recently became interested in our family ancestry. It is interesting to trace your family roots back, in some cases, several hundred years. I have always felt it important to instill a family heritage in my children and grandchildren, so I was very glad to see this research. Part of our search led us to several cemeteries where we gathered pictures of gravestones to collect information.
It provoked deep thoughts to see markers that were, in some cases, many years old. Gravestones usually have two dates: one birth date and one death date. These two dates are connected by a dash. This dash represents the person’s life. Regardless of how long the person lived, one has to wonder about their life. The beginning date and the ending date are not as important as the dash: how the years in between were spent. Every one of these markers represents a life. Someone’s loved one’s life was lived and touched the many lives with which it came in contact.
The other item commonly found on the markers is the epitaph. Epitaphs are short phrases honoring the deceased person. Sometimes they are comical but more often they have a religious connotation. I have been thinking of the many biblical epitaphs recorded in Scripture. For example, David is known as the man after GOD’S own heart (Acts 13:22). What a wonderful way to be remembered! I went through my Bible and marked several possible epitaphs that were of interest to me. I will include just a few:
Genesis 18: 19 – he commanded his children after him to keep the way of the LORD.
Acts 10: 38 – he went about doing good.
1 Tim 6: 11 & 2 Tim 3: 117 – A man of GOD
Hebrews 2: 13 – I will put my trust in him.
Psalms 40:4 – Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust.
2 Tim 4: 7 – I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
Acts 9: 36 – Full of good works
James 2: 23 – a friend of GOD
On a negative note, one of the saddest epitaphs found in the bible is said of Jehoram: No one loved him while he lived and when he died the scriptures say it was to no one’s sorrow (2 Chronicles 21: 20).
If my descendants many generations removed begin searching their ancestry and come across my gravestone, what would my epitaph say? The two dates will not be important, but the dash that represents my life will be. What short phrase will be used to describe my life? How will my life be summed up? How did I use my years here on earth? How did I affect those around me? What influence did I leave? What Scripture reference will be most appropriate? Will eternity reveal any good that my dash did?
I want my epitaph to bring honor and glory to Him. What do you want yours to say?