WHO SAYS YOU can’t take it with you? In ancient times, the pharoahs and emperors wanted to be remembered for their great deeds and power, so they built impressive tombs because to erase one’s memory on earth was to erase one’s immortality. Many surrounded themselves with what they thought they would need when they arrived at their final destination.
The Chinese were big on personal property. Like the Egyptians, they believed the dead would need their favourite objects, as well as things of value, in the other world. The tomb of the first emperor of Chin, Qin Shi Huangtai, is the most famous example of Chinese burial practices in the ancient world. Shi Huangti’s tomb was designed to symbolise the realm he presided over in life and included all he would need in the next, including a terra cotta army of over 8 000 men.
The journey to the afterlife was long, and so Egyptian rulers were buried with food, water and wine to help them on their travels. In Tutankhamun’s tomb, archaeologists found 36 jars of vintage wine and eight baskets of fruit. Beautiful jewellery and clothes were buried with a pharaoh so he could travel in style to the afterlife. Tutankhamun was buried with over 50 garments of the finest linen . . . lots of jewellery, including bracelets, buckles, pendants, necklaces, rings and scarabs made from gold and precious stones. There were also fans to keep him cool; one was made from ivory with huge ostrich feathers.
In comparison, the last wish of a Ugandan public servant to be buried with money is no big thing. Charles Obong, 52, who worked as a senior personnel officer in the Ministry of Public Service, wanted to use the cash to redeem his soul before God. As one report put it: “The hereafter, more so meeting the Creator on Judgement Day, is without a doubt a spine-chilling thought. This was the terror-provoking imagination that tormented a former Public Service officer who saved more than US$55 000 to bribe the Almighty Father on Judgement Day so He could forgive his earthly sins.”
Mr Obong died on December 17, 2016, and subsequently his wife, a principal immigration officer, confessed that her husband had told her to bury him with huge sums of cash which he would carry to heaven to offer God on Judgement Day. He also instructed his brother, Justin Ngole and sister Hellen Aber, to bear witness to ensure his wife followed his instructions to the letter and put the money in his coffin. The will was silent about the sins Obong wanted to make amends for but, it was noted, that he worked at the Public Service ministry which was reportedly guilty of a major pension scam involving about US$70mn. News of Mr Obong’s overture to the Almighty reached the head of his clan and a tempestuous meeting followed which led to the hurried departure of the hearse and the exhumation of the body on the grounds that burying clan members with money was taboo. When the coffin was opened US$ 5 700 in $100 notes was found in it.
The Rev. Joel Agel Awio, who presided at the funeral, clarified that no amount of money can buy eternal life, adding that God cannot accept such a golden handshake. That said, would God accept a Lamborghini? A report from Florida stated that hip-hop mogul Alexander Bernard Harris was murdered in 2002 while he was at a barbershop and his last wish was to be buried in his banana-yellow Lamborghini Murcielago. The performer’s memorial ceremony featured his embalmed corpse sitting in the driver’s seat of the luxury sports car but it looks like his widow did not agree with his request and buried him in a glass coffin. Poor Harris. He could not drive it through the Pearly Gates or offer St. Peter a turn at the wheel.
According to the website CRAVE, fancy wheels and money are not the strangest things that accompany the deceased into the underworld. One man who ate at Burger King every day took a Whopper with him. When New York attorney John Jacobs died, his wife put his fully-charged new Motorola T720 cellphone in his hand. When he cashed in his chips, Arch West, the Frito Lay executive who developed Doritos, the Taco flavoured chips, had cheese flavoured Doritos sprinkled in his grave. A Tennessee man, William Wise, was buried with his horse, hunting hound and a sharp sword because he was afraid that his soul would be consigned to Hell and if that was the case he planned to track down Satan and kill him.
While Wise might not have been all that wise, what would you have done if you were Mr Obong’s wife? Here is what another wife, faced with the same final request to bury money, did. Her husband loved money and told her that when he died she had to take all his money and put it in the casket with him. She promised with all her heart she would do so. At the funeral, she had a shoebox with her and just before the interment placed it in the casket. One of her friends was aghast and exclaimed, “Don’t tell me you were crazy enough to bury the money with him?” She said, “Yes, I promised. I’m a good Christian, I can’t lie. I promised him that I was going to put that money in that casket with him.” The friend asked, “You mean to tell me you put every cent of his money in the casket with him?” “I sure did,” said the wife. “I got it all together, put it into my account and I wrote him a cheque.”
Tony Deyal was last seen saying that Frank Sinatra was buried with a bottle of Jack Daniels whisky and a carton of Camel Cigarettes. However, unlike King Tut, none of his fans was buried with him.