As part of my research, I visited a monument shop - the granite works and the memorial works. Cutting the stones has become a computerized science which is no less interesting, and while I had pictured a guy holding a sandblaster in a small room, what I actually found was that same small room, with the "guy" standing outside the room, looking through a window, setting the computerized sandblaster to etch the stone, and he could either watch, or walk away while the computer followed its program and did the work.
More of what I learned: 65% of people opt for cremation these days, and many of those people don't ever end up in the cemetery (on grandpa's mantel, dispersed into the ocean, etc.) either as a measure of cost or choice. There are cremation niches in the cemetery, and those niches commemorate the life of the deceased much the same as a headstone would. Some cremains are buried and have a headstone. What's the impact? Future genealogists may never find relatives without a grave marker annotating their life. Some people would like to be commemorated, remembered for who they were, or at least have their life acknowledged. Some people don't care if anyone ever remembers their contribution to the world.
Last but not least - epitaphs, and this is the theme in my novel. I've been told people who want an epitaph carved on a stone generally have an idea what they want to say. The front of the stone is meant to state the facts. Name, date of birth, date of death, with limited space for another line or two, such as beloved mother, devoted father, etc. The back of the stone is wide open for any additional thoughts. While I was at the memorial works, I saw a three-foot stone with the entire 23rd Psalm engraved on the back.
I found the stones and the symbolism interesting, and spread across a wide green lawn, I can see how some people would develop an interest with it all.
How do you want your life to be memorialized when you die?