Epitaphs, Funeral Readings & Deathbed Books

Discussion questions: Let’s get morbid this week! What would you want to be the epitaph on your tombstone? What would you want read aloud at your funeral? What would be your deathbed book? Let’s talk about it in the comments… while there’s still time!

Your Epitaph

A few years ago we talked about the book we would choose to read on our deathbed. I thought it might be fun to resurrect (ugh) that question to see if any of our answers have changed — mine has! — as well as dig (ugh) a little deeper and talk about the literature that might play a role after you… leave your deathbed.

Last year we did a micro fiction contest using the words “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt,” a line from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five when Billy Pilgrim imagines the words he’d like to appear on his gravestone.

That’s an epitaph. Sometimes an epitaph includes details about the person (“beloved mother,” for example), but often they’re drawn from literature, poetry in particular. And that’s what we’re looking for here: Some words from a poem or a novel/story, or from anything you’ve read — or written! — that you’d like to see on your tombstone.

What would be your epitaph, and why?


Your Funeral

A lot of us plan/hope to not be buried and have a stone. If that’s you, you can either choose to play along anyway or you can answer a different question: What would you want to be read aloud at your funeral service, and why?

And just for fun, how about a song while you’re being carried out?


Your Deathbed

As for deathbed reading, the rules from the first time still apply.

In other words, there are no rules! Interpret it however you’d like. If a longer book equals a longer life, go for it. If you want to choose a religious text, don’t be shy about saying so. And be equally non-shy about choosing a book you wrote! Maybe you want your final reading experience to include the characters you created and care about? Nothing wrong with that.

What book would you choose to read on your deathbed, and why?

Let’s talk about it in the comments.

I don’t have my epitaph or funeral reading yet. In the original deathbed reading post, I picked Johnny Tremain, my childhood favorite. In the deathbed reading episode of Yak Babies, I picked Ed Abbey’s The Fool’s Progress. What will I pick this time? I have no idea! That’s the coolest part: We don’t have to decide, until we’re lying on it.


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WriteByNight writing coach and co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.