One of the most sacred practices of the human race is honouring the dead. When someone has passed away, friends and relatives keep their memory alive by visiting the gravesite and paying their respects. The act of leaving flowers and other trinkets at the foot of someone’s grave has been around for a long time, but have you ever stopped to question why we do it? In ancient times, people believed that the dead would be able to take whatever objects they were buried with into the afterlife. This is why pharaohs have been discovered with things like jewels and honey in their sarcophaguses.
It makes sense that people used to leave objects of great value, and even when people leave flowers today they serve to make the gravesite look prettier, but there is one trend that doesn’t seem to make much sense when it comes to honoring the dead. People are reportedly leaving coins on the graves of fallen soldiers. So, what does something as worthless as a penny mean when it’s placed on the grave of someone who has bravely served our country?
It turns out that this practice has its roots in the same belief system which said that the dead could take possessions with them once they passed away. Coins first began showing up in the seventh century B.C. and were immediately incorporated into the tradition of leaving things near burial sites. Greek mythology says that Charon, who transported souls across the river Styx, needed to be paid for his (very important) services. This inspired relatives to put a coin into the mouth of their deceased relatives so they’d have a way to join the rest of the dead instead of wandering aimlessly through the afterlife. Several years later, there came the practice of placing pennies over the eyes of the dead. This was primarily done in the U.K. and the U.S., and many believe that it was meant to prevent the corpse’s eyes from opening.
Finally, we arrive at the modern day practice of placing coins on soldiers’ graves. In the United States it isn’t widely believed that bodies can take belongings with them into the afterlife, so why do people continue to do this? Well, Facebook user Dave Malenfant shared a story explaining his experience with this practice and what it means to those who have served. Continue reading to hear what Dave has to say about this remarkable act of remembrance.
“While “Cleaning of the Stones” at the National Cemetery in Holly, I noticed a quarter placed on one of the stones. Later I also noticed a nickel placed on another stone. I was so touched with this that I took pictures. (sorry the nickel did not turn out).
I googled about the coins, and found this out. I am very proud to share this.
A coin left on a headstone lets the deceased soldier’s family know that somebody stopped by to pay their respect.
Leaving a penny means you visited. A nickel means that you and the deceased soldier trained at boot camp together. If you served with the soldier, you leave a dime. A quarter is very significant because it means that you were there when that soldier died.”
The next time you see coins on someone’s grave, you’ll know exactly what they mean. While this isn’t officially recognized or endorsed by the military, these tiny pieces of metal say a lot about those who bravely defended our freedom.
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