A member of our congregation asked me on Sunday what this word meant: it occurs on one of the war memorials in our church. (In my ignorance, I had to go and look it up.) Apart from various references in the Hebrew Bible to Mizpah as a placename, the most relevant citation is Gen. 31:49, where the reference is to the stone set up as a sign of the covenant between Jacob and Laban. From there, it comes to mean a bond between people separated by distance or death, hence its use on funeral monuments.
By a wonderful piece of serendipity, I had the opportunity to experience this directly yesterday. I bumped into a former colleague and friend, who told me that another colleague was visiting, and would I join them for lunch. As a result, I found myself sitting with four former colleagues/old friends around a table in Glasgow University, including one who moved to the US more than 30 years ago, and whom I had only seen intermittently since then.
It reminded me, despite the challenges and stresses of academic life, to give thanks that I still belonged to a goodly fellowship, across decades, across oceans and across continents.