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Grave goods to take with you

What should you put in your coffin to go with you?

No, it’s not a strange as it sounds. In fact, from our earliest days, what you took with you to the next place was a very important decision.

Archaeologists call items buried with the dead in historical graves ‘artefacts’ and they are also known as ’grave goods’.

Many people ask for specific items to go into their coffins, whether or not they believe they are going somewhere else.

Grave goods were often chosen to demonstrate the status and seniority of the person during his or her time in this world.

Items were (and still are) chosen to accompany the spirit of the deceased on their journey to ’the next world’ perhaps across the fabled River Styx of Greek mythology.

And even today, many people ask for specific items to be placed into their coffins, whether or not they believe they are going somewhere else.

Common grave goods

Fairly common grave goods include:

  • Photographs;
  • Item of clothing (parts of football or other sports strips are popular);
  • Jewellery;
  • Book/reading material;
  • Letters;
  • Music;
  • Food;
  • Cigar or cigarette (no smoking restrictions in the next place). 

What can and can’t go with you

For burial, there are very few restrictions and your funeral director can advise.

For cremation, however, there are many restrictions and again ask your funeral director for a list.

Nothing made of plastic or glass for starters. Any replacement joints that you have implanted in your body are fine, and they will disappear completely. Plastic toys or a Frisbee are not allowed.

Many coffins contain letters, with the deceased’s family writing a special last letter - that is never intended for reading - and that is sealed into the coffin or attached to it before cremation.

Flowers are the most frequent item to be placed in, or on, a coffin. In the UK football jerseys and scarves are one of the most frequent items to accompany the dead.

Some people will go in their Sunday best, wanting to look smart in their dinner jacket or party dress.

Others want all their clothes to go the charity shop and just be dressed in special garments provided by the funeral director.  

Many naturists have stated that they will go into their coffin in the same way that they entered the world ... naked.

If you are organising the funeral of somebody who has just died, get the family to compile a short list of grave goods to go with the departed family member.

If you are planning your own funeral, make the list of grave goods one of the documents that you put in your Lifebox.

Don’t think that grave goods is a silly idea.

You may be surprised how much enjoyment people get from complying with these simple requests. Cremation, though, limits these choices considerably.

But the smiles on their faces as they read that you want a cigar in the coffin with you is worth thinking about. (SA)

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