Some of the bizarre items listed were a Wizard of Oz costume, an Argos catalogue and a broomstick. Perhaps the more notionally practical things included a torch, a mobile phone, a pork pie, a toffee crisp, a dustpan and brush and playing cards.
David Collingwood, director of funerals at the Co-op, said:
“Placing items inside coffins dates back centuries, but what we’re seeing now is a shift in more people choosing exactly which personal items they want to be buried with… Sometimes those items are sentimental to the deceased, such as love letters, photographs and wedding rings. Others choose items specifically to make people laugh.”
This aligns with previous studies showing people are switching to more light-hearted funeral venues and putting more emphasis on the celebration the life rather than mourning the death. Planning your service is certainly a good thing to do and is a great help to surviving relatives both financially and practically.
Re-styling funerals can be a good thing but sometimes it detracts from the grieving process. At a funeral we give thanks for the life but we need to also feel the pain of loss. This is necessary to properly bring a sense of closure, but more importantly it helps us reflect on the reality of life’s end. God sends death as a consequence of our sin and every instance is a wrenching apart of soul from body and friend from friend. A funeral is thus a time to stop and think: what did this life mean, now it is over… and what does my life mean?
It is understandable that people might want to place personal effects in a coffin which have sentimental value. However, the inclusion of items of practical usefulness seems to go further, expressing a desire that death might not be the end. The hope is that somehow in the afterlife the deceased might be able to enjoy or use such things. This often expresses a false optimism.
The Christian hope is much better than a party that celebrates a life now over, or waving off an adventurer travelling into the great unknown beyond. Instead, it is the certainty that death is not the end because Jesus has conquered it and leads the way to a future existence where the trinkets and gadgets of this life will be as dust to us in the presence of God forever.