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What would you write as an epitaph on your tombstone if you were limited to only 6 words?

Epitaphs provide those who have passed with a poetic or memorable inscription for those who visit the deceased to remember them by. For those who choose their own epitaphs, they are a way of sending one final and lasting message.

For those who create epitaphs for the deceased, they are a way of remembering what was most important about the deceased. Epitaphs are small, and often personal historical documents. They are mostly found on headstones, but on other places too, like memorial benches (e.g., The Halifax Memorial Garden).

“Author Ernest Hemingway is known for his terse writing style. Short sentences, spare descriptions, and limited adjectives set his writing apart from the more flowery novels of the early 20th century. Supposedly, Hemingway was once challenged to write an impossibly short story—a narrative in six words. His answer? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Hemingway’s tiny tale inspired fellow minimalist writers for decades. In 2006, writer and editor Larry Smith sent forth a challenge to Internet users everywhere: Write their own super-short story, but this time as a biography. The six-word memoir was born…. Common memoir themes include life and death, love, loss, and even religion.” (1)

What would you write as an epitaph on your tombstone if you were limited to only 6 words? Consider what these say about the person:

• A Lifetime of Laughter and Love

• Friend to Many, Stranger to None

• I loved cigarettes more than life

• I died with my boots on

Death doulas like me have a non-funeral scope of practice, yet we do encourage our clients and families to pre-consider what their end-of-life funeral details include. This may entail decisions about disposal of the body (e.g., cremation, burial), pre-writing an obituary, purchasing and paying for a plot/urn, choosing a headstone and yes, even what epitaph inscription goes on the headstone.

As always, I wish you “a life well lived and a death well planned”.


(1)Source: Is a Six-Word Memoir? The Brief but Powerful Story of Your Life, by Leandra Beabout, Updated: Dec. 15, 2022

(2)Source: evocative world of the six-word memoir: A Q&A with new TED ebook author Larry Smith Posted by: Jim Daly December 20, 2012

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