You can't take it with you, or at least that is the saying.
We often use this saying when referring to money, the rich person who is stingy with money, or when we feel like treating ourselves to something. You can't take it with you!
Yet, even the earliest human graves have things that the living person used and loved buried with them. Tools they used from even primitive cultures where a similar tool would be difficult to create and a real loss to bury it with the dead person.
Ancient Egyptians to Vikings were buried with their most loved and used possessions, or things they expect to need in the afterlife. Pharaohs were entombed with statues of slaves to serve them in the afterlife, as well as expensive goods to be used. Their bodies carefully preserved to have use of when they returned to it.
We think of this practice as something ancient peoples did but not modern people. Yet, it is not uncommon for someone to be buried with a loved token, or even a large item. I have friends who were buried with paper cranes from our mutual friends memorial service.
As human beings we love things, we collect and covet things, we love them so deeply that for some of us, they are things we are simply not willing to let go, even after we die. There is of course certain things we need for survival, and things we collect to make life easier, tools we use for our life's work, and sentimental objects, all things that we care for as if they have their own sentience. These are, in modern times, the things most often taken with us as we are lowered in the Earth.
Why do we do this? I'm not trained (or conceited) enough to pretend I have all the answers to that. Perhaps, its a hope that the loved one can enjoy these things, or that the physical thing was so important to them that you simply can't separate the person from the thing. Maybe there is a deep feeling that the spirit of the person is somehow attached to the object, and in order for them to be whole in whatever happens after this life, they need it with their corporeal body.
The clothes worn by the body are chosen with equal care, so the corpse will be comfortable or look presentable or reflect their personality. I have been to a funeral that the deceased was buried in their motorcycle leathers and one in pajamas, plus one elderly woman who declared a week before her death she wanted to be buried in a blue dress.
Most modern religions don't believe that the physical body will go on after death like the Ancient Egyptians did, however the care of presentation is still agonized over. Will my friend be riding many motorcycles after his death that he needed to be buried in his leathers? Is the comfort of the corpse so important that their favorite pajama pants be worn? Are there many formal dances that body is going to that they are dressed in formal attire for the occasion? Does it matter? If the funeral is open casket then, yes, potentially the person wants to be presented they way they lived, or have their families see them a certain way for the last time.
In the end, as much as we like to separate ourselves from ancient and primitive cultures and ideas, we have a lot in common too.
Do you have something you want to be buried with? Is there an outfit you want to be buried in? Does your family know?
My name is Abby, my life has been touched many times by loss and grief. This life has led me to helping others navigate their own grief. I have become a INELDA trained End Of Life Doula and a hospice volunteer. I am not a professional counselor or psychologist and all advice given should be treated as advice from a friend.