Phrases That I Hope Go Unmentioned at My Funeral

Phrases That I Hope Go Unmentioned at My Funeral

Phrases That I Hope Go Unmentioned at My Funeral

No, no, I’m not planning on dying anytime soon.  However, another birthday is just around the corner for me.  So…tick, tick, tick.  We don’t know the day or the hour, just that we’re getting closer with every passing year.

Here’s a list of cheesy funeral phrases I know I’m guilty of using but which I hope won’t feature at all when my time comes.

“I wish I had known her.” I hate this one.  It’s the quintessential, empty regret statement of the universe.  Better not to utter it, ever.

Why?  Because if anyone really wanted to get to know someone, they would have made the effort.  Are we not all online?  Plus if you’re at my funeral and didn’t really know me it suggests that you’re only there for the food.

I also wish people wouldn’t bother fretting about not “knowing” someone.  In my case, chances are, if someone never ‘knew’ me personally, then I probably never got the chance to know them that well either. This ‘life’ thing tends to keep people occupied.   So don’t worry about it.  You didn’t know me and I didn’t know you. You’re off the hook, enjoy the reception.

“She was full of life.” Okay.  And now I’m full of death.  Great, thanks for that.

Seriously, though, I find this an incredibly droll statement.  That, and, as long as I’ve lived, the one thing I’ve learned is that life is full of deaths. That might sound terrible at first, but actually, upon second glance, it can be rather fun.  Let me explain.

Death has saturated my life most especially lately.  Death to self, I mean. Finishing my master’s degree, maintaining a career with a nice retirement plan, a waistline, and even homeownership; at some point I’ve had to bury those ideas I coveted for so long with a heavy heap of fertilizer called ‘reality.’  Interestingly, life still goes on.

In fact it ‘goes on’ in a major way: through my children. They alone are the greatest testaments I have to a life fully lived.  Therefore, if anyone says that I was “full of life,” let it be because my life was full of children, and little else more.  Otherwise, please know that my life is not full of life so much as it is one that is ripe with several very timely and highly entertaining deaths.

“She was a friend to many.” Let’s be honest.    She (me) was mostly too buried under the demands of daily life to befriend and stay in close touch with people.

However, when I am remembered, I hope it is said of me that I did pray, think well of, and wish good things upon others.  I hope this counts for something to someone, but even if it doesn’t, I’ve made my peace with that too.

“She was a friend of God.” Rubbish. If I was truly His friend, then I was a terribly poor friend much of the time.  It is still far more accurate to say that God was a good a friend to me somehow never gave up asking me to be a better friend to Him.

More than a friend, however, God has been a Father to me.

I’ve spent most of my life with Him on an intimate basis, and aside from my husband, I have lived with no other friend.   And so I’d rather people said “’She was a daughter of God,” or, “She was his faithful one,” or even, “She was an idiot who He loved,” before they assumed I was anything close to a true friend to the Almighty.

Then, if there is anything salvageable from my life in the way of true goodness, please give Him the credit and simply say, “God did that.”  Trust me, it’s all to His credit, anyway.

“We know she’s in heaven.” Shoot. Me. Now. Look, man, I appreciate the sentiment.  Truly I do, but admit it.  You have absolutely no idea where my soul is going.  Whenever I’ve heard people say this at funerals, I’ve always felt like it’s more just wishful thinking for where their own soul may one day go.

Chances are, if I’ve been charitable, faithful and pure I will get there…eventually. Hell can’t touch people like that.  It might take a century or two in purgatory, before finally making my way to the Pearly gates, but  c’est la vie! Or C’est la mort, whatever.  But getting to heaven straight away?  Let’s hope and not say we know.

So there you go. Instead of any of the above morose tautologies, at my wake, I’d love if more folks said something to the effect of,   “From her life I’ve learned to be more [insert heroic virtue here],” At least, perhaps they’ll get the full statement out before they chortle and cough up their wine. That is a far more productive statement, and more aligned with my immediate hopes for mine and their eternal salvation anyway.

I don’t mean to be so hard to please when it comes to what is said about me when I’d dead, but I’ve been to enough funerals of lapsed Catholics to not want to get lumped into the flowery-language-to-compensate-for-their-lifetime-of-dissent category.

Seriously, say a rosary for me, think of me, and find out what it is God is calling you to do.  That’s what we’ll all be remembered for anyway.  Not so much what we wanted to do, but what He wanted us to do so that finally, it won’t matter what others say about you, whether you are here or whether you are gone.

Copyright 2013 Marissa Nichols


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  1. Taylor Gilfillan on

    I have never really thought about what will be said about me when I am gone. I have, however decided what I want on my tomb stone. It is something I chose when I was a teenage years: Below my name and beloved wife and mother ect. the final phrase will read ‘Oh man! I knew this would happen.’ I hope it brings a smile to a few faces.

  2. Very good dose of reality. One Irish woman I knew, when politely told that her husband looked so good laid out in his casket she replied, “I suppose so for a dead man.” That lightened things up at the funeral parlor.

  3. Robert Dean Jr on

    I can relate with the sayings. However, sometimes, while praying for the person’s soul, it is not unusual to know grown children or other members of the family and attending to support them as an act of mercy. This is when I notice many are uncomfortable in knowing what to say.

  4. Fr. Dale Normandeau on

    The one phrase that makes me wince is “he/she will always be alive in our hearts and minds”. I want to be eternally alive in God, and I couldn’t care less about being just a memory in your mind or a sentiment in your heart!

    • Amen, Father! There’s a Protestant hymn that I used to wince at for the same reason before my conversion from the Southern Baptists. “He Lives” ends with, “You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.”

  5. I’m with you on all of these! Please please please pray for me, both now while I’m alive and later when I’m dead!!!

    Look, folks, if you really believe “this person is in Heaven”, ask for his/her intercession. How many people who confidently state, “She’s in Heaven now” actually pray to that person as a saint? But if you’re not sure, intercede for him/her! (I kind of did both with JPII after he died — the former, because I felt there was good reason to suspect him of sainthood, and the latter because it was what the Church recommended.)

    One thing I would like to have someone say at my funeral is, “Once he at least gave away an onion.” But like Grushenka, I doubt I really have.

  6. Deacon John Saturus on

    In the Roman catacombs are a *lot* of tombstone inscriptions, which I just love to read. They typically say things like “Martha, 23 years, in Christ” or “Steven, priest, 61 years, at peace”. That’s what I think I want. “John Saturus, ?? years, deacon, in Christ”. What more could anyone ask?

  7. Many funerals suffer from premature canonization of the deceased. We all have faults. Even with the anointing of the sick and viaticum, few of us die w/o some venial sins, or some temporal punishment due to sin unresolved. If you pray for someone, and that person is already in Heaven, God can reapply merits from that prayer to others. The same thing is true of Masses offered for the deceased.
    With all my faults, TeaPot562

  8. Whenever I hear the phrase “We know she/he’s is heaven”, I put the person on top of my prayers for souls.

  9. Great post, Marissa! I definitely agree, especially with the sentiments of “Well, he/she’s in heaven now” or “At least he/she isn’t suffering anymore.” How do they know? I understand that people are trying to be comforting, but with that, we’ve lost some of our core Catholic beliefs about Purgatory and sins. Minimally we’re watering them down so much that we don’t sound Catholic and are actually starting to sound like Protestants instead of holding up our Catholic beliefs. It is especially iritating to me when they are said by the priest! Instead, we should be encouraging all the attendees to keep the deceased in their prayers until their own death, because we do not know where their soul is. As TeaPot562 so aptly said, if they are in heaven (or unfortunately hell), God applies those prayers for someone else who needs them. No “good” is wasted. Keep offering those prayers and not taking God’s love and mercy for granted!

  10. Marissa Nichols on

    Thanks everyone for the great comments! I have been monitoring them from my phone but this is the first time I’ve been able to get to my computer and I completely concur with so many of the points made! And many had me laughing out loud, particularly: “She/He’s alive in our hearts”…bleh! Why say not “She’s alive in our stomachs?” then lean your head to the side and start chanting, “Braaaaains,” like a zombie? At least then the funeral will be more memorable.

  11. Globulemarium on

    First, your “C’est la mort!” made me laugh – I used to say that all the time when I lived in France, and only my non-French friends would chuckle.

    My goal is to have my epitaph be accurate and to read, “Mission Accomplished”. That’s what I want. But I’m training my family to say things like, “We know FOR SURE he’s suffering in purgatory – so remember to say a couple for him.” Hopefully not wishful thinking

    My big Irish family is great, mostly because the best thing we do is attend awesome wakes and funerals. What a blast! Great way to see the old fam, have a few drinks and a bunch of good laughs and prayers – all mixed together.

    We’ve a habit of always telling it like it is. “Well, I’m so sorry he’s gone. But, ya know, he had a tough life. May God have mercy on him and bring him home.” We say things like that and everyone nods.

    Or, “It’s must’ve been tough to be as nutty as a fruitcake, and meaner than a bear with a sore behind, but I’m sure she’ll get some credit for giving us all some penance, eh?”

    For all the suffering souls in Heaven: Lord have Mercy!

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