It's rarely possible to sum up someone's life with only a few words. In that way, symbols are often able to express what words alone cannot. If you're struggling to find the right words to put on a grave marker, consider having specific plants or flowers engraved on the headstone instead. Since plants and flowers have their own symbolic language, their imagery may help express your sentiments in a simple, powerful way. Here's more about five symbolic plants and flowers that are often used on headstones.
Scrolling acanthus leaves have been used for centuries to grace both art and architecture, all the way back to ancient Rome and Greece as a symbol of the cyclical, enduring nature of all life. If you want to express a belief that someone's being lives on through their many deeds or descendants, have a border of acanthus leaves etched around the edge of a gravestone. It's ability to grow despite adverse conditions also makes it a symbol of the ability of goodness to thrive even under harsh conditions, making it a great symbol for someone who overcame great odds in life.
Roses have a very complex symbolic language. Use a rosebud or a partial bloom to indicate someone that who died while still very young, without having had the chance to develop his or her full potential. Use a pair of braided roses to symbolize a couple whose love surpasses the grave. A rose with a severed stem indicates that the death was unexpected. A rose with prominent thorns can symbolize a beauty and virtue that survived despite hardships.
Lilies are used primarily on the graves of women and children and are used to signify the purity of the soul and a return to a state of innocence at death. A specific variety of lily known as the "peace lily" is sometimes used symbolize the peace of the dead after a tumultuous life or a long struggle with illness. Another variety, the calla lily, is sometimes used to symbolize a faithful and beloved wife.
If you want a flower that symbolizes someone's rarity, strength, or powerful character, consider having an orchid engraved on the tombstone. Orchids are considered appropriate for both male and female headstones, and represent fertility as well as power. Because they are exotic flowers, the clear symbolism is that the deceased was an unusual person - someone that was well above-average in some way.
If someone enjoyed a long, prosperous life, a chrysanthemum might be an appropriate choice for a headstone. Symbolic of joy, cheerfulness, and good health, a chrysanthemum represents the celebration of someone's life rather than the mournfulness of death. This is a great choice for someone who enjoyed life and wouldn't want others to spend too long in grief.
No matter what you ultimately choose, using the language of plants and flowers can relieve you of the burden of trying to express complex thoughts, feelings, and emotions in too few words, yet allow you to make a powerful statement about the person you loved.