By David Kittredge
In recent news, a corporation known as StoneMor Inc., that describes itself as a “death care industry” based in Pennsylvania which owns 87 funerals homes and 320 cemeteries across America, sent out 38,000 calendars as part of an advertising campaign. The calendar contained a quote from Nazi war criminal Heinrich Himmler: “My honor is my loyalty.” StoneMor Inc. explained that the faux pas was the fault of an outside vendor that it had hired to make the calendar, whom it fired, along with a few of its own employees associated with the marketing campaign.
The indiscretion happened to appear on the November page of the 2020 calendar, which causes me to wonder what other slogans or corporate mantras were deigned suitable for the other eleven months of the year? The calendars have since been gathered up and have been destroyed by the parent company so we will probably never know, thankfully.
First off, what does Himmler’s quote have to do with the price of plots in Pennsylvania? Was someone afraid that a corporate owned funeral parlor was going to start moonlighting in a dishonorable manner by doing work under the mortuary table and off the books? Remember that some StoneMor Inc. employees were part of the Himmler quote blunder, who approved of the quote not realizing the source.
Come to think of it, why would a funerary conglomerate need to run a marketing campaign at all? Aren’t people just dying to do business with them anyway?
So, what about the other eleven months? Shall we speculate on possible catchy phrases to post on a funeral home calendar that might draw someone’s attention before they draw their last breath. How about, “You’re in good hands with StoneMor Inc.,” a takeoff of the old Allstate Insurance catchphrase. Or perhaps a little encouragement for the intended after their bod has been spiffed up by the mortician, “You’ll look mahvelous,” paraphrasing the old Billy Crystal SNL line. In reference to their latest model casket, a page of the calendar could read, “It takes a licking, but isn’t too constricting,” hearkening back to the old Timex commercial. Or maybe we could borrow the Home Depot catchphrase, “You can do it, we can help.” Now wouldn’t that be reassuring? How about expanding on the General Electric mantra, “We bring the good things to life, or whatever.” We could also tweak the American Express credit card’s motto to “Don’t leave Earth without us,” us meaning StoneMor Inc. Gee, I wonder if they would accept American Express?
Since its so close to Halloween, why don’t we include a few comical gravestone epitaphs. Of course I’m going to gravitate away from the grave and towards the humorous, no not the bone, rather the droll and facetious. We could perhaps use the line from an old Rolling Stones song, slightly modified to fit the bill, “Time, time, time is on my side, no it ain’t.” Or how about Bob barker’s famous line from “The Price is Right” game show, “Come on down,” just to be hospitable. “It’s just a jump to the left and then a step to the right”, from the song “Time Warp” of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fame, might be an appropriate or better said, a mischievously inappropriate gravestone etching. One might pick “Serenity Now!” Frank Costanza’s line from the TV show, “Seinfeld.” “Beam me up Scotty, there’s no intelligent life down here” is an extended line from the “Star Trek” series that would go nicely on a grave marker. To be blunt and to the point, the phrase “Stuff Happens” could sum up someone’s take on life and death, quite nicely.
A few years ago, when I was in Tombstone, Arizona, just before ordering a sarsaparilla in Big Nose Kate’s saloon, I visited Boot Hill cemetery where I saw the grave marker of Lester Moore, an inept gunslinger. His epitaph read, “Here lies Lester Moore, four slugs from a 44, no les, no more”. Now that’s the spirit, as appropriateness and civility are gunned down like the Clanton brothers in the O.K. Corral.
Here are some other witty and lighthearted elegies that were written on tombstones.
“Beneath this stone my wife doth lie, Now she’s at rest and so am I.”
“I told you I was sick.”
“I was hoping for a pyramid.”
“Here lies an Atheist. All dressed up and no place to go.”
“She always said her feet were killing her, but no one believed her.”
My all-time favorite epitaph is one which W.C. Fields had put on his gravestone, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”