In praise of the lapidary epitaph

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lap·i·dar·yadjective: characterized by an exactitude and extreme refinement that suggests gem cutting: a lapidary style; lapidary verse. Of, pertaining to, or suggestive of inscriptions on stone monuments.

I wandered over to the Times Colonist in Canada this morning. It’s a while since I’ve been. The obituaries are some of the best. They often embody a really nicely written epitaph – a lapidary epitaph. The sort of epitaph you find in English churches before the Victorians pumped in hot air and sonority. Jane Austen’s is as fine a model as you could find:

In Memory of JANE AUSTEN, youngest daughter of the late Revd GEORGE AUSTEN, formerly Rector of Steventon in this County. She departed this Life on the 18th of July 1817, aged 41, after a long illness supported with the patience and the hopes of a Christian. The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections. Their grief is in proportion to their affection, they know their loss to be irreparable, but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her REDEEMER.

At the Times Colonist we find this in commemoration of STEPHENSON, Colin Patrick October 6, 1964 – February 21, 2010:

Living courageously, often defiantly, with HIV/AIDS for many years, Colin was a man whose imposing stature was matched by a huge heart. Known for being stubborn, opinionated, and a consummate devil’s advocate, he will be remembered most for his sense of humor, his thoughtfulness and honesty, and above all his kindness, which he shared among a diverse network of friends, family and co-workers. All who met Colin were struck by his fierce independence, passion for fairness, and constant attention to friends and family. His was a life defined by caring for others. Predeceased by his father, Richard, he is survived by his mother, Ruth, his partner, Shawn, his sister, Jennifer, brothers Greg (Paivi) and Tim (Kathy), and aunts Joan (Jim), Prue (Jack), and Ruthie.

Numerous cousins, nephews, and nieces will miss his hugs and jokes. All will miss the warmth of his twinkling eyes, infectious laugh, and soft flannel shirts.

I’ve probably chosen the best of the crop. Read the rest here.

I was struck, as I read, by how many of these obits end by announcing there will be no funeral. It set me wondering… More matter for another blog post.

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