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Things To Ponder


Epitaphs can be both amusing and melancholic.
Below are some of my favorites.

Here lies cut down like unripe fruit
The wife of Deacon Amos Shute;
She died of drinking too much coffee
Anny Dominy eighteen forty
On a grave from the 1880s in
     Nantucket, Massachusetts:
  Under the sod and under the trees,
  lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
  He is not here, there's only the pod.
  Pease shelled out and went to God.

Here lies the body of Elizabeth Mann
She lived an old maid and died an old Mann

Contributed by
Tom Markham

In memory ov John Smith
who met wierlent death neer
this spot 18 hundred and 40 too.
He was shot by his own pistill.
It was not one of the new kind,
but a old-fashioned brass barrel
and of such is the Kingdom of heaven

Harry Edsel Smith
Born 1913 - Died 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft
to see if the car was on the way down.
It was.
Here lies Elizabeth,
my wife for 47 years
And this is the first damn thing
she ever done to oblige me.

Here lies a poor woman who always was tired
For she lived in a place where help wasn't hired
Her last words on earth were, "Dear friends I am going
Where washing ain't done nor sweeping nor sewing
And everything there is exact to my wishes
For there they don't eat and there's no washing of dishes
Don't mourn for me now, don't mourn for me never
For I'm going to do nothing for ever and ever."

These were contributed by my friend Brenda Jerome:

Two stones side by side in an old Pennsylvania graveyard:

Grieve not for me my husband dear
I am not dead, but sleeping here;
With patience wait, prepare to die
And in a short time you'll come to I.
I am not grieved my dearest wife
Sleep on, I've found another wife.
Therefore I cannot come to thee
For I must go and live with she.

Found in a Northern Virginia graveyard:
Let her RIP

She lived with her husband 50 years and
died in the confident hope of a better life

Found in a New Jersey graveyard:
Julia Adams,
Died of thin shoes,
April 17, 1839,
age 19 years
A New York tombstone:
He got a fish bone in his throat
And then he sang an angel note

Left a widow at a young age, a lady in Lincoln, Maine
advertised on her husband's tombstone:

Sacred to the memory of Mr. Jared Bates,
who died Aug the 6th 1800.
His widow aged 24 who mourns
as one who can be comforted
lives at 7 Elm Street, this village,
and possesses every qualification
for a Good Wife

He found a rope and picked it up.
And with it walked away.
It happened that to the other end
a horse was hitched, they say.
They took the rope and tied it up
Unto a hickory limb.
It happened that the other end
was somehow hitched to him

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World's Shortest Poem
Contributed by Tom Markham


Beneath the roots of tangled weeds afar in country graveyards,
Lie the ones whose uncrowned heads have stamped this nation's destiny.
Beneath those tottering slabs of stone, whose tribute moss and mould efface,
Sleeps the calm dust that made us great, the true sub-stratum of our race.

--Sara John English in A Plea for Our Old Graveyards

And on a lighter note --

Ode to Old Age
I can say with all veracity my brain is at full capacity
And nothing can come in unless something goes out
All turns to fat that I put in my mouth
What used to go north now goes south
My muscles are flabby; my joints are frozen
I tend to be gabby but I'm prone to dozing
My eyes are shot my teeth are loose
My bowels are locked or loose as a goose
    Hair, hair everywhere but for the top of my head
    It's almost too much to bear
    If it weren't for my bladder I'd never get out of my chair
    Believe me when I say I know what I'm talking about
    I feel as if my warranty has just run out!

Used with permission of the author, John Terrill Wayland Jr. of Waco, Texas
You can e-mail John

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Favored Quotations
I found this quote in an unexpected source!

"What's passed down in the blood is the strongest chain of all, isn't it?  What's mailed along, one generation to the next, good news here, bad news there, complete disaster over yonder."

--From a Buick 8
Stephen King

In the last paragraph of her book Middlemarch, George Eliot makes the following commentary on heroine Dorothea. As a genealogist, this quote struck me as particularly apt when applied to many of my ancestors:

Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive; for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

Show me first the graveyards of a country
and I will tell you the true character of the people.
--Benjamin Franklin

I recently enjoyed this quotation from The Rosewood Casket by author Sharyn McCrumb. Farmer Randall Stargill is dying....
As winter set in, he could no longer walk up the hill to the family burying ground, and the graves went untended. His wife's new granite marker stood close to the wrought-iron gate, a few yards down the slope from the rounded tombstones of the older Stargills, and well away from the rows of upright splinters of rock that had never been carved with names or dates. No one now remembers whose graves these rough stones marked. They were already old when the century began, and Randall had never asked his elders whose bones lay beneath them.

The farm had been Stargill land since 1793, not that they cared much for family history. No Stargill had ever stood for Congress or headed an army or attained sufficient prosperity to be a pillar of the community. All they had done was to claim their mountain, farm it faithfully, and keep it in the family through two centuries and a civil war. No matter what party was in power, the Stargills hunkered down and went about their business. They'd been draft dodgers in the War Between the States, because in the Tennessee hills the wrong side was to take a side. They got more from their Celtic forebears than blue eyes and short stature: in their blood was the knowledge that who you are is tied to the land, no matter which government wins the election or whose flag flies over it. The land stayed the same, and the Stargills mostly had, too. When they died, they and the land became one.

Copyright 1996 Sharyn McCrumb. A Dutton book; published by the Penguin Group.

Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead,
and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people,
their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.
--William Gladstone

I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me those who are to come, I looked back and saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond. And their eyes were my eyes.

As I felt, so they had felt and were to feel, as then, so now, as tomorrow and forever. Then I was not afraid, for I was in a long line that had no beginning and no end, and the hand of his father grasped my father's hand, and his hand was in mine, and my unborn son took my right hand, and all, up and down the line that stretched from Time That Was to Time That Is, and Is Not Yet, raised their hands to show the link, and we found that we were one, born of Woman, Son of Man, made in the Image, fashioned in the Womb by the Will of God, the Eternal Father.

How Green Was My Valley
--Richard Llewellyn

"There was a ringing for each car as it struck its wheels on the cattleguard and rode up into the cemetery. The top of the hill ahead was crowded with winged angels and life-sized effigies of bygone citizens in old-fashioned dress, standing as if by count among the columns and shafts and conifers, like a familiar set of passengers collected on deck of a ship, on which they all knew each other----bona-fide members of a small local excursion, embarked on a voyage that is always returning in dreams."
The Optimist's Daughter
--Eudora Welty

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