Friday, April 25, 2014


What do we write about those who have died?

What do we write to and for those who are left?

Obituaries memorialize the life of our deceased loved one and are often the first piece we write after a death.  I carry a laminated card  of my father's obituary and picture in my Bible.

 I just reread his online obituary, along with the messages of condolences that appear there, as well.

In response to the news of a death, we write those messages designed to comfort, strengthen and give a degree of peace.

With our new technology, we can do this in so many way--online guest books, texts, emails and, of course, the traditional sympathy card.  I have saved the many beautiful cards I received with messages of encouragement and support.

We hear sermons and homilies preached by pastors offering theological assurances and celebrations of a life well-lived.

We remember, along with family and friends of the deceased, as they offer  reflections, remarks and tributes.

Click here to read a tribute to my father, a version of which I offered at his funeral in February.

And then comes the final writing--we must arrange words to be carved in stone--  on headstones, or grave markers, crypt walls or tombs,

All somber and serious.

But... all doesn't have to be so grave-- no pun intended.

My friend, Kevin Cordi, whose own father recently died, sent me a link to an article about the most fascinating cemetery in Sapanta, Romania.  The Cimitirul Vesel or " Merry Cemetery".

In this small town, Woodcarver  Stan Ion Patras collects the stories of his neighbors, observing their lives and taking notes day by day, then carving their stories after their deaths.

According to this article:

Death is not always as grim as it seems. At least not in Sapanta.
That’s because bodies laid to rest in this Romanian town get another chance to tell their tales.
The gravestones in Sapanta’s Cimitirul Vesel, or “Merry Cemetery” are brief glimpses into the lives of the people they immortalize. Over 1,000 blue wooden crosses have crowded into this cemetery, each illustrated with a bright, colorful picture and a darkly-humorous poem.
There’s no point in hiding secrets in this small town in Maramures, so people’s lives are captured honestly in their epitaphs, with none of the sanitizing that happens at many modern funerals. Flaws accompany the deceased into the afterlife — whether it’s a drinking habit or an adulterous relationship.

Click here to read the rest of this article and to see the illustrated crosses. 

Hmmmm.... I wonder exactly what Woodcarver Stan Ion Patras would carve on my cross... or your cross.   What secrets would be captured from my life and  be humorously memorialized in poetry?

J. Patrick Lewis offers two books in this same darkly humorous, poetic vein that will delight children and adults alike.

In Once Upon A Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses, we find 22  short, gravely comical, grimly hilarious poems or epitaphs for folks of various occupations.  Giggles and guffaws are guaranteed as we approach a subject around which we  normally tip-toe and whisper.

Here are two selections:


Here be the bones of Mabel Grady
Extremely thoughtful school-lunch lady
She never served a Jell-O mold
If it was more than six weeks old.

Our grief'
Was Brief

Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs takes us beyond  humans, to morbidly and humorously mourning our pets and other animals .  Patrick has teamed with Jane Yolen to offer witty and wickedly funny last words for our furry, winged, and scaled friends.

Sample the play on words, puns, and fun:

Ciao, Cow
This grave is peaceful,
the tombstone shaded,
but I am not here--
 I've been cream-ated.

In this excerpt from title poem, Last Laughs, he urges us to:

...Read the words
 of bugs and fishes,
beasts and birds.
They know it's not
all gloom and doom
that's written
once upon a  tomb.

What do we write about the dead?
What will someone write about us after we are gone?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibility

Reflect on the life of someone who has died.

Write an obituary or epitaph for that person.

Can you also write a humorous poem in their memory?

Write your own obituary, being brutally honest.  What secret might you include about your life in a humorous way?

1 comment:

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