Choosing Something Special for Your Coffin
When the time comes, would you like to be cremated or buried with a favourite item, special photo or particular flower in your coffin? Or perhaps you would like to be dressed in your favourite clothing. Lots of people choose to do this it and it is by no means a modern trend; the tradition goes back thousands of years.
The ancient Egyptians were determined to guarantee a smooth transit into the afterlife and set about developing some pretty spectacular rituals including mummifying the body, casting magic spells and adding specific items to the coffin which were thought to be needed in their next life. Of course, the Pharaohs took the opportunity to have many of their riches buried with them along with a sacrificed slave or two to help look after them in the afterlife.
With regard to the ancient Egyptians, the vital importance of preserving the body and some personal effects for a positive afterlife experience likely explains why people of that time did not follow the common practice of cremation but rather buried their dead. It was very much frowned upon to “mistreat” a body after death and so cremation was taboo.
Early ancient Egyptian bodies were simply buried in shallow oval pits, with a few basic personal effects. Burial sites have been excavated that reveal lots of bodies and animal remains which were placed in the same grave. Over time, their graves became more complex and intricate. At one point, bodies were placed in wicker baskets but eventually, it became common practice to bury the deceased in wooden or terracotta coffins.
The last known tombs made by the Ancient Egyptians were stone coffins known as sarcophagi. These graves contained burial goods like jewellery, food and games. By 3,600 BC, Egyptians had begun to mummify the dead, wrapping them in linen bandages having anointed them with embalming oils. It is because of these processes that so much evidence has survived, giving us an insight into the burial rites practised by the Ancient Egyptians because the bodies have been so well preserved.
Cremated or buried with a favourite item – what things not to place in a coffin?
Although you can put virtually anything within reason, into someone’s coffin for the purpose of viewing pre cremation, it’s worth being aware that some items have to be removed before a cremation or a green burial because they are not suitable for extreme temperatures, do not readily decompose or they can give off noxious fumes which are polluting and environmentally detrimental. Photographs are one of the most popular items to place inside a coffin and cremated. When my Mum died, I chose a photo of us together laughing and happy, took it into the funeral directors and asked that it be placed in her hand; a simple thing which gave me comfort. Other popular items include flowers, letters, books or in the case of a child’s funeral, a teddy or a soft toy.
It is of course, sensible to be aware that post cremation, some items cannot be recovered and if you want to keep things for sentimental reasons, such as wedding rings and so forth, you need to ask the funeral director so he can remove them before the cremation and return them to you.
Pacemakers have to be removed before funerals to avoid the risk of explosion. Certain types of titanium replacement joints are removed after cremation and often returned to a company which recycles them to reduce waste and cost. Certain clothes and accessories can’t be cremated because they release harmful emissions. Coffins are double-checked prior to cremation to ensure such items don’t slip through the net.
Some people choose to be buried with cremated ashes of a close member of the family. Some people even choose to be buried with a pet’s ashes or the ashes can be combined and placed into an urn. Flowers are popular because they decompose organically.
Clothing made from natural materials are usually worn for natural burials which, by their very nature, must avoid items which are hard to break down or cause damage to the environment.