Meanings of Tombstone Carvings

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Submitted by Kate Rigsby Cain Bynum




Arches--- Victory in Death
Arrows--- Mortality
Bouquets/flowers--- condolences, grief, sorrow
Buds/Rosebud--- Morning of life or renewal of life
Roses--- Brevity of earthly existence
Portals--- Passageway to eternal journey
Bugles--- Resurrection and the military
Crossed Swords--- High-ranking military person
Flying Birds--- Flight of the soul
Fruits --- Eternal plenty
Garlands --- Victory in death
Imps--- Mortality
Shells--- Pilgrimage of life
Thistles--- Remembrance
Tombs--- Mortality
Trees--- Life
Trumpeters--- Heralds of the resurrection
Willows--- Earthly sorrow
Morning Glory--- Beginning of life
Butterfly--- Short-lived; early death
Full-Blown Rose--- Prime of life
Palm Branch--- Signifies victory and rejoicing
Ivy--- Friendship and immortality
Laurel--- Fame or victory
Oak Leaves & Acorn--- Maturity, ripe old age
Weeping Willow--- Emblem of sorrow
Corn--- Ripe old age
Sheaf of Wheat--- Ripe for harvest, divine harvest time
Poppy--- Sleep
Lamb--- Innocence
Dove--- Innocence, gentleness, affection, purity
Cherub--- Angelic
Cross--- Emblem of faith
Anchor/Ships--- Hope or seafaring profession
Broken Ring--- Family circle severed
Broken Column--- Loss of head of family
Torch Inverted--- Life extinct
Urn with Blaze --- Undying friendship
Harp--- Praise to the Maker
Handshakes--- Farewell
Hearts--- Soul in bliss or love of Christ
Horns--- The Resurrection
Hourglass--- Swiftness of time
Open Book/ Bible--- Deceased teacher, minister, etc.
Lily or Lily of Valley--- Emblem of innocence and purity
Tree Stump w/Ivy--- Head of family; immortality
Urn with /wreath or crepe--- mourning
Stars & Stripes Around Eagle--- Eternal vigilance, liberty
Hourglass w/Wings of Time--- Time flying; short life
Candle being Snuffed--- Time, mortality
Coffin, Father Time, picks/shovels, darts--- mortality Hand of God
Chopping--- Sudden death
Winged Effigies--- Flight of the soul


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(This poem was read at my Aunt funeral, very touching)

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the the end.

He noted that first came her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years. (1934-1998)

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth...
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars...the house...the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard...
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what's true and real,
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile..
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy's being read
With your life's actions to rehash...
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?