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Now if you’ve looked at this thinking oh no, she’s gone all maudlin, rest assured, I haven’t! I don’t intend this to be a sad post although I will be mentioning the taboo subject of death so look away now if you don’t fancy it!

When you get to 53 as I am, it’s a pretty safe bet that you will have had a fair bit of experience of loss in your life and attended one or two funerals. By and large I think funerals are a very good thing and I want mine to be heaps of fun but preferably after I’ve conked out with a glass of gin in hand following an uproarious 100th birthday party where I’ve danced the night away!

But seriously, it is important to mark events in our lives, happy and sad, and all cultures do it. And I am a great fan of tombstones and, lying in the bath just now, was thinking about my dad’s memorial stone, which always makes me smile.

My dad died over ten years ago with lung cancer so we had some time to plan for his demise and subsequent funeral arrangements. After a cremation in Bath UK we took his ashes back to Edinburgh, Scotland where he was buried in a family grave. We were able to add a stone to the plot which prompted much discussion of what we would put on it. We didn’t have a lot of space but we particularly wanted to put something that would give a flavour of what my dad was like.

Eventually we settled on his titles, son, father, grandfather etc although we were allowed to put Dad and Da which was what his grandchildren called him. And then he had a little phrase he always used when shaking your hand (well, he always used it if he liked you and if he had a drink, the latter being probably more frequent than the former...).

He would say:

'Here's my hand, here's my heart'.  

And so we put that on. But we noticed that several of the stones had little carvings on which said something about the deceased, like a motorbike, or a house or plane. So we pondered long on what to put on my dad’s.  

It began as joke but somehow stuck and eventually we had a perfect pint of beer, in a straight glass, with a head (but still a full pint) etched to one side of the stone. The stonemeason was rather bemused and said he had never been asked for that before, lilies being more usual. But he did it for us and now my father’s grave raises a smile from many who pass by it and always a hefty grin from us and happy memories, which surely is what tombstones should be about?

What phrase best sums you up? If you had to choose an image for yourself what would you choose?

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