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Buying Elvis Presley’s crypt

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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The body of Elvis Presley was temporarily entombed in the crypt of this mausoleum at Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee before being moved to the grounds of his Graceland mansion. (Credit: Juliens Auctions/Handout)

Would you like to be buried in Elvis Presley’s first crypt?  Now you can.  Bids start at $100,000.

On August 18, 1977, Elvis Presley’s funeral was held at Graceland, his home in Memphis, attended by 200 close friends.  A procession then took his remains to a private mausoleum crypt at Forest Hill Cemetery.  His father wanted to inter his body at Graceland but needed permission from the state of Tennessee for a burial on private grounds.  Two months later, after permission was obtained, the remains were removed to their final location and the crypt has remained empty ever since.  This morning’s Los Angeles Times is now announcing its sale.

Elvis Presley’s first grave is not the only item up for auction on June 23.  A letter written by Michael Jackson to Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie, is estimated to be worth $800 to $1,200.  A spare John Lennon suit from “A Hard Day’s Night” is thought to be worth between $4,000 and $6,000, while Amy Winehouse’s robe from the video “Rehab” is valued at $15,000 to $17,000.

What would motivate someone to spend that kind of money for an object possessing little or no intrinsic worth?  Will the deceased care about the previous occupant of his or her crypt?  Will anyone find a practical use for a letter or leftover costume?  I think our fascination with celebrities says more about us than it does about them.

We all want our lives to matter.  We want to leave a legacy, to do something that says we were significant.  If we can’t make our own mark, we can accomplish vicariously what we could not do personally.  The baseball fan who owns an autographed Nolan Ryan ball or the frustrated singer who can wear Amy Winehouse’s robe is participating just a little in cultural immortality.

Here’s the reality: whoever is buried in Elvis Presley’s first crypt will spend eternity somewhere, but it won’t be Memphis, Tennessee.  You and I have only today to be ready for our last day.  Meister Eckhart, the medieval German theologian, observed that “God is at home; it is we who have gone for a walk.”  One day that walk will come to its end, and “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52), Christians will step into the presence of their Father and King.

Yesterday I encountered a statement by C. S. Lewis I had never seen before: “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”  As he famously remarked, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.”

At what are you aiming today?