In a nondescript plot in Montreal’s Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery lies the body of a certain John Laird McCaffrey, whose gravestone has written upon it an ambiguously naughty inscription.
Now that I live in Montreal, I had to see this sacrilegious sarcophagus for myself.
What exactly is this crude commemoration, might you ask? Take a look:
Free your body and soul
Unfold your powerful wings
Climb up the highest mountains
Kick your feet up in the air
You may now live forever
Or return to this Earth
Unless you feel good where you are!
Missed by your friends
If you haven’t spotted it already, take the first letter of each of the lines in the epitaph and you’ll see it spells “FUCK YOU”!
I’d heard of this gravestone quite some time ago but I wasn’t sure if it actually existed or if it was an urban myth; thankfully an article at Snopes and an official entry at Find A Grave (the world’s largest database on all things related to burials) confirmed to me that it was, in fact, legitimate.
I took note of its location: Section C, Plot 01369, and rode my bike up the delightfully scenic Mont Royal, to Notre Dame des Neige Cemetery (one of the two necropoli that reside along its western slopes), to embark upon my quest.
It didn’t take long to spot. The burial location map at the official cemetery website gave me a good indication of where Section C was, and it was a quick search from there to find the specific slab.
So how did this gravestone come to be?
According to an interview published some years ago in the Montreal Mirror with the stonemason who carved out the words:
“Afterwards, as I’m done, I’m looking at it and I’m like, ‘Wow.’ I noticed it just like that. This guy’s ex-wife and mistress came in together and ordered the stone. They said the message represented him. It was a thing between the three of them.”
I’d like to think McCaffrey would see the light side to this – after all, it’s been 28 years since his death and random people like me are still visiting him!
I was curious to see just how common it was around the world for epitaphs to contain vulgar language like this and I can’t say I was particularly surprised to find it certainly isn’t prevalent.
In an article from 2015 on stuff.co.nz entitled Expletives could be banned from headstones, I learnt that the Palmerston North City Council censored the gravestone of Vincent Drummond-Paul which contained an F-Bomb. Engraved on the stone was a list of his favourite songs, including the Big Sean hit, I Don’t Fuck With You; it received complaints from another grieving family and the council took action to hide the offending word.
In another case a few years earlier in Lynn, Massachusetts, The Daily Item reported that the Cemetery Commissioner rejected a request from a local family to inscribe deceased rapper Sonny Santiago’s tombstone with lyrics from one of his self-penned songs: “You gonna remember the damn name, I give a fuck if I die with no damn friends, I got my fam by my side and that’s until the end”.
Don’t get me wrong – there are quite a few humorous gravestones out there in the world, easily evident from a quick google search, but it’s rare indeed to find any epitaphs containing a profane word. I wasn’t able to find any set rule as to what language is and isn’t acceptable on a cemetery shrine, but it’s pretty clear an unofficial line is drawn when it comes to hard cussing.
With all that in mind, I’m pretty sure the late John Laird McCaffrey can hold claim to the world’s most vulgar gravestone.