The loss of a loved one is never easy. You need to find time to grieve, yet also plan the memorial service to honour the passing of a cherished person in your life. This can make it difficult to compose yourself and find the right state of mind to make decisions.
A memorial plaque is your chance to ensure you memorialize your loved one in the manner they deserve. One of the most challenging steps in grieving is preparing the words to mark their grave or to place in other areas in their honour, whether it is a park bench or a wing in a hospital.
If you use a memorial plaque to remember a recent loss, these ten ideas will help you find the words to write an epitaph they deserve.
Choose a Meaningful Opening
Many people will simply glance at the memorial, so you want to make sure the message is passed across quickly. Some of the most popular words include:
- In Memory of
- In Loving Memory
- Dedicated to the Memory of
- In Honor of
- Forever in Our Hearts
- A Life Well Lived
- In Treasured Memory of
- In Fondest Memory of
These common phrases, followed by the full name of the person honoured, ensures that everyone quickly understands why the plaque is there. Those people who were known and loved in the community, or who lived most of their life with a nickname, always include that name in quotes to keep that loving memory intact.
Include Their Life Span
Next, it is traditional to include their life span noting the date they were born and the date they died. It can be as simple as the dates: November 6, 1955 – March 12, 2018, or written out in full: Born: December 12, 1940, and died March 22, 2010.
Consider a Quote
Although this is not a must, many memorials include a quote that reflects the person’s beliefs, something in their own words, or a quote that refers to life and death. It helps show a little more about the person while adding a touch of eloquence to the memorial plaque.
If including a quote, it is best to write it with quotation marks and the person credited with saying it. For example:
- “Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do and die.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson.
- “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” – William James.
A brief statement about the person’s life is often included. An example of this might be:
- “Loving and devoted wife of John and mother of Sam.”
- “Her joyous laugh will be greatly missed.”
- “A dedicated father, husband and friend.”
Reason for the Plaque
Many memorials state the reason the plaque was installed. For example, if you were to place a plaque on a donated park bench, you might add something like: “To remember the cherished moments we spent in this park together.”
If it is someone involved in the community, it might state, “A strong member of the community donating 20-years of their time to improving the lives of children.”
This addition helps tell the story of the person and helps preserve their memory with respect. It also allows people who read it to reflect on their contributions and life.
Take Your Time
While there might be time constraints on getting the words to the sign maker, you really shouldn’t rush your decision. Since the words will be etched in metal, you should reflect on the final message that best honours the person. Step back for a day or two and give yourself time to consider what you want to say. Speak to others who know the person, and consider where the plaque will be placed.
Consider the Plaque Size
Before you start composing a long bio, be sure to ask the plaque maker how many words will fit nicely on the plaque. If you get too wordy, you might lose people who won’t get the message. At the same time, you want to reflect on the person and present their story in a meaningful way. A word count helps you find the perfect wording and focus on creating something that really tells their story and why they are being honoured efficiently.
While the person being honoured might be inspiration enough, it helps to do a little research to get more ideas. Some things that might help you find the right words include:
- A favourite song
- A poem they loved
- A line from a movie
- Religious references
- Famous quotes
- Something in their own words from social media, emails, letters, etc.
Research is especially helpful if you’re at a loss for words.
Get Feedback Before You Commit
Once you get some ideas down on paper, share them with family and friends. See what words resonate the most with people before you commit to what you want to say. Listen to feedback, and see if anyone has other ideas you missed.
Often you get stuck in your memories of the person, which can make the plaque have meaning only to you. Your goal is to choose words that reflect the deceased, not their relationship with a particular person.
An excellent way to keep things more objective is to ask your sign maker what they think. They might spot things their experience has shown them won’t work or where you might have missed an opportunity.
Consider the Design
While the words on the plaque are important, you should also consider how you wish them to appear. The key is to make them as legible as possible while remaining timeless. It can sometimes be tempting to be drawn in by trends or something fancy to add more importance to the plaque. But simplicity is always the best way to let the words remain the focus.