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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN




Of Tombstones and Epitaphs

A website listed as ancestry.com listed these unusual epitaphs from here and there:

    *  On the gravestone of Anna Wallace: "The children of Israel wanted bread, And the Lord sent them manna. Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife, And the Devil sent him Anna." (Ribbesford, England)
    *  "I told you I was sick." (Key West, Florida)
    *  "Here lays the Kid. We planted him raw. He was quick on the trigger, But slow on the draw." (Silver City, Nevada)
    *  On the gravestone of Buford Allensby: "Here lies Pa. Pa liked women. Ma caught Pa in with two swimmin'. Here lies Pa."

Tombstones and epitaphs can tell a story, or at least stir curiosity to hear the rest of the story! But epitaphs are etched in stone — the story is finished for the one buried beneath the stone. Cemeteries are populated by the remains of all kinds of people. Males, females; rich, poor; black, white, brown, red, and yellow people; athletes, soldiers, sailors, politicians, policemen, preachers, teachers, farmers, factory workers, business people, truck drivers. The kinds and classes of people in the grave are as diverse as those still above the grave. Oh yeah, one other thing: the good and the bad are both buried in the same cemetery, sometimes side by side. Solomon noted in Ecclesiastes 8:10, "I saw the wicked buried - those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless" (NIV). It bothered Solomon that a wicked and unholy man could go to the holy place of his day (the Temple) and receive praise in spite of his wickedness. Solomon saw this wicked man buried. How might the wicked man's epitaph have read if Solomon had written it? Perhaps, "Wicked in life, wicked in death," or "The last page of his life is writ — Beneath this stone lies a hypocrite." Just saying.

Genesis 5:27 records the death of the oldest man in recorded history — Methuselah — at 969 years old! He is mentioned eight times in the Bible (5 times in Genesis 5:21-27; 1 Chronicles 1:3; Luke 3:8). All we know for ceratin is he lived a long, long time, begot kids, and died. His epitaph might read, "I lived longer than you will." We know how long he lived, but are left to wonder how well he lived. Oddly, he had a son named Enoch who did not outlive him in years, yet NEVER died! Concerning Enoch the Bible says, "So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him" (Genesis 5:23-24). The writer of Hebrews 11:5 gives a good idea of what Enoch's epitaph would say (if he had a gravestone to put it on!) — "By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, 'and was not found, because God had taken him'; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God." What an epitaph! "He (she) walked with God," or, "He (she) pleased God." Will your epitaph suggest that you simply lived a long life, or a good one? Enoch reminds us we must walk with God in this world if we hope to be with Him in the next. Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ