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Posts Tagged ‘euphemisms for death’

Most tombstones just list dates or years of birth and death, and the simple dash is the indication of what they are.  Those that do use words usually preface the death date with the straightforward word “died,” with “departed this life” a distant second for 19th and early 20th century tombstones. But the ones I find more intriguing and never fail to photograph are the ones who use some more obscure, usually poetic phrasing. These frequently reveal something about the beliefs of the person who commissioned the headstone. In the case of James Eddy, his death in 1887 was described by his remaining family as “passed to spirit life.”

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Ingersoll (7)

Ingersoll (6)

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Hayes (2)

This is the first time I have seen “translated” used as a euphemism for death. It communicates a belief in death as simply a step rather than a final thing.

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John Milligan

I think this is the first and only time I have yet found the word “terminated” on a tombstone.  I was a little surprised, because I think in our modern culture, “terminated” has a rather negative connotation.  I hear it all the time at work – officially, people are not fired, their employment is terminated.  The Terminator is a creature sent back from the future to kill specific people and alter the course of history in the move of the same name.  Tombstones are often meant to provide some measure of comfort to those who remain, and “terminated” seems a harsher word than is usually used.

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Margaret Brown

In sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection unto eternal life was deposited here the mortal body of Margaret, wife of James Brown & daughter of Wm. & M. Caldwell.

This is to date the most poetic euphemism for death that I have seen in a cemetery. It’s delightfully old-fashioned and poetic. It conveys a sort of quiet faith and emphasizes the line between the body, which is entirely earthly, and the spirit, that will emerge to enjoy a heaven in perpetuity. I’m sure it is intended to comfort – look, only Margaret’s body will remain here.

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One of the most common euphemisms for death that you find on tombstones is the phrase “departed this life.”  I found it on E. L. Crane’s tombstone in Adams Street Cemetery in Berea.

Crane Monument

It’s on Louise Keppler’s tombstone on Erie Street Cemetery in Cleveland.

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It appears on Mary Ann Matter’s tombstone in Old Carlisle Cemetery in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

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