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Considering an epitaph for a cremation urn

 by Victoria Thompson

That's All Folks - epitaph of Mel Blanc, creator of Bugs Bunny

The power of the epitaph. When thoughtfully written, an epitaph can distill the essence of a person into a few words. It's the type of personalization that can make one laugh, reach for a tissue, or reflect deeply on the absence of the one who is gone. 

My preferred epitaph is the irreverent kind. I love black humor for its dryness and irony. Writing this article has given me pause to reflect on my own future epitaph. Since international travel has punctuated my life with joy, perhaps this one will suffice: Left on the Ultimate Travel Trip.

One of my favorite memories of a humorous epitaph involves a cemetery visit. My mother, my sister and I were visiting my father’s grave. My mother had recently purchased additional plots for our family, including hers. Walking over to inspect “her spot,” she called to us in an indignant tone to inspect the neighboring marker’s epitaph. My sister and I laughed, and soon my mother laughed too. The epitaph proclaimed in stone: He Had Fun. My mother shook her head and commented, “I’m going to have to lie here for eternity next to He Had Fun."

Engraving a memorial urn or cremation necklace

Epitaphs of every type remain an important mainstay in modern funerary culture. But how can this type of personal memorializing be incorporated on a memorial urn or a cremation necklace for ashes when these pieces are so much smaller than a burial headstone? The good news is they can.

Here are some things to consider for engraving an urn or cremation pendant:

  • Think about the number of words you want inscribed. It might guide your decision on which cremation item to choose. 
  • Consider a product that shows “add engraving” in the description. If the product can’t be engraved, another option is adding an engravable pendant on a ribbon; or add an engraved plaque to a base that will sit under the product.
  • Read the vendor’s engraving details carefully. They will specify number of characters permitted, font, and symbol choice.

During the grieving process choosing the right words can seem like a daunting task. Many people don’t consider themselves good writers, but they want to express something meaningful. If that’s the case, is there a wordsmith among friends and family members who would probably be honored to help? 

Also, there’s nothing wrong with going traditional and keeping it simple. Perhaps your loved one’s name, or nickname, or some special saying you shared with that person. 

Below are a few classic phrases for inscription:

  • Forever in my [our] heart
  • Always loving, always loved
  • Beloved [daughter brother, son, husband, wife, sister]

Funny people will be remembered fondly by others for the laughter they generated. An epithet can be used to acknowledge this gift. Mel Blanc, the creator of Bugs Bunny, has That’s All Folks inscribed on his memorial and Charles Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip has a memorial bench engraved with images of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus and Lucy with the words, How Can I Ever Forget Them?

The loss of a baby or child is particularly difficult. Grieving parents may struggle in overwhelming circumstances to express what they want to say in a few words. Here are a three ideas to consider for a cremation urn or memorial jewelry to honor your beloved little one: 

  • Loved beyond measure
  • Some people dream of angels. We have held one in our arms. 
  • Our Beautiful Little Boy [or girl]  <insert name> 

Sports, super heroes, music and hobbies probably played an important part in the lives of older children. Family members may want to acknowledge these passions in a meaningful way. For example, a football pendant cremation necklace, a soccer symbol engraved on an urn, or an engraved pendant draped around a horse-themed urn.  

One of the most beautiful tributes I’ve ever seen was at our local Little League field. A Little League boy who’d played baseball there had died. His parents commissioned a memorial sculpture of a young boy in uniform at bat. Underneath their boy’s name, birth and death dates were these words: 

For all the young players who have left the field of life too early.

Touching and appropriate—it brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. 

And let’s not forget our loving and faithful animal companions, who also deserve an epitaph. A few suggestions:

  • Faithful companion
  • My beloved [insert pet’s name here]
  • A dog like no other

As well as epithets, choosing an urn product can reflect the loved one’s character. For example, the Boston Cedar wooden cremation urn for one who was a master woodworker. Or the Rose Bouquet hand painted ceramic urn for someone who loved to garden, or who loved to receive roses.

For animal companions consider an urn for a pet. Products are available that feature paw prints, such as the Raku pet cremation urn. Photo urns and urns decorated with cloisonné cats also make lovely choices. 

Materials to choose when personalizing a cremation urn 

But how does one know which material to choose for an engraving? The answer is, you don’t. There are four methods for personalizing jewelry or an urn: laser, rotary, fiber, and sand carving engraving. Which one is used depends on the product’s material. 

  1. A laser is very exacting to use, working well on hardwoods, some metals, some coated metals, some marble and stone and fine precision small items such as jewelry. This method can be a challenge for many ceramic surfaces. 
  2. Rotary engraving is done with a rotating cutting tool and works well on uncoated metals such as brass, stainless steel, silver, gold titanium, pewter and aluminum. Creating a groove through paint or ceramic surfaces exposes the base metal surface and color beneath. 
  3. Fiber laser cutting systems generate a laser beam through a fiber optic cable to the cutting head. This process is good for brass, stainless steel, copper, aluminum and others. It’s not suitable for coated metals. 
  4. Sand-carving is a great choice for marble, stone, ceramic, granite or metal. A stencil is applied to the item’s surface, then, using compressed air, a sand-like material shoots onto the open areas of the stencil. 

Vendors will test different surfaces to determine the best engraving technology and will make a recommendation. As mentioned before, another option is an engraved pendant on a ribbon or chain to be placed around the product. Alternatively, an engraved plaque mounted onto a separate base for a cremation urn does the trick. 

Whatever method you decide upon, you may find that choosing the right urn or jewelry piece, and customizing it with an inscription or a symbol offers additional and long lasting comfort during a difficult time. 

For more detailed information on engraving a cremation urn or jewelry, read our planning guide, "4 Engraving Processes to Consider when Personalizing a Cremation Urn."


Victoria Thompson lives with her geriatric cat in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has a professional background in newspaper and magazine work as a writer and editor. Minneapolis Public Schools enjoy her presence during the school year where she works as a special education teaching assistant and grant writer for her school. She was a caretaker to her mother—who suffered from Alzheimer’s— for 11 years.