|Project by Mark A. DeCou||posted 05-27-2006 03:41 PM||23697 views||16 times favorited||18 comments|
MISSION CASKET BOOK & PLANS AVAILABLE:
After Posting my Casket Stories and Photos on Lumberjocks, I have been overwhelmed by the response from readers. There is quite a thread of folks wanting to assist in their funeral planning by building their own casket, or building one for a close friend or family member. There are many reasons a person would build their own casket, including saving money, assisting someone with a need they have, doing something custom made because it is special, just because you want to, keeping your hands busy at something during the grieving process, a conversation piece, etc.
All of this email traffic about caskets has relayed to me some really sad stories, and stories of great courage, and exposed a real desire by some do-it-yourself folks to build a casket. And, there isn’t much on the internet or in Print Form to help you get started.
So, All of this internet attention lead me to a teaching invitation at the John Campbell Folk School in the summer of 2011 on the art of casket making.
To assist the students in that class I wrote a step-by-step instruction book and drew some drawings, making the Book a total of 78 pages. There isn’t much help in book form, or the internet, for making your own casket, so I tried to use my Book as a way to teach the project, but also teach woodworking skills in the process.
If you would like a copy of my Book/Plans, visit my Etsy.com store to purchase a copy for yourself
NOW BACK TO THE ORIGINAL POSTING:
I built this Casket specifically for a family friend, but if you would like to order a casket from me, email me and we can discuss your thoughts and the details.
Thanks for looking,
You can also visit my Website
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I know, I know, this is a pretty morbid project to think about. Give me a moment of your time, and I hope you’ll see why I included it in my postings. The photos aren’t great, just shot in my front yard with a hand held camera.
When you think about it, we will all need a box like this at some point, hopefully later than sooner.
I had been thinking about making my own casket for a couple of years, but whenever I would talk about it with my wife, or someone else, they would just look at me strangely, more than normal.
I was really “wrestling” with the thought of doing a casket, and I had these thoughts every few months, but always put it off.
About this time, a friend of ours stayed the weekend with us while she was attending some weekend courses toward her master’s degree at Emporia State University, and I asked her about the subject. She thought it was a great idea to make a casket, and encouraged me to give it a try.
About a week passed, and I received a sad email from some old friends I had met while taking a short-term missions trip to Mexico City to help build a church for a group of people that didn’t have much money to build their own church. This sad email informed me that their son-in-law was losing his battle with bone cancer, and they asked if I would consider building a casket for his funeral. I agreed, not really knowing what I was agreeing to do.
This young couple had been married only a couple of years, and now they were facing separation by death. I was broken-hearted for them, as I had known the man’s wife since she was about 8-9 years old. I couldn’t get out of my mind the joyful photos of her wedding that her family emailed me a couple of years earlier.
I didn’t know anything about what it took to build a casket. What design rules apply, what does the funeral director need, how to close and lock the lid, what about state laws, how long, how high, what materials?
I only had about about three more days to get the casket done, and I couldn’t wait any longer, so I just started building the box without much direction, and many scattered thoughts.
My instructions were to keep the casket as cheap as possible, as the couple didn’t have insurance for the funeral, and had very limited funds after missing work so often with the chemo and doctor’s visits over the past year. But remember, whether it goes into the ground or not, I still will be putting my name on the finished work, so I tried to do my best work, in the time allowed, with the budget considerations.
I worked about 40 hours putting the box together, finishing it, and adding the hardware for lifting the box. Then I moved the box into the house in the middle of the living room, where my wife helped me sew and make the satin lining, padded mattress bottom, and pillow.
There was a strange sadness followed by “understanding” that came on me as I was crafting this box. First, I know that I will not avoid death, as we all are appointed to death. Second my wife will not avoid death, nor my children. Third, there isn’t enough extra room in a casket for anything other than the body. No room for possessions, just a box and a body, all the worldly possessions are left behind. The only thing going to heaven with me are the souls of those around me that accept the right path there.
As this casket was being finished up in our living room, my two kids were crawling around on it, playing under it, playing with the handles, asking questions the way 3 and 4 year-olds do, and they were completely oblivious to the implications of what a casket means, and that was fine with me.
After all the work was done in about 46 hours over 3.5 days, we were finished, and my wife and I went to bed. My wife usually has no part of any of my woodworking projects, so I was very appreciative of the chance to work together, and we accomplished more than I could have on my own.
As we were laying there in bed together, exhausted after such a hectic weekend, my wife rolled onto her side, facing me, and said, “honey, I would be honored to be buried in one of your boxes some day.” It was a pretty teary eye moment, even so today as I write about the memory. Unless there is some kind of tragic accident, or unforeseen disease, my wife will surely outlive me, if we both get the chance to grow old.
The next morning, I loaded up the casket in my old pickup truck, and drove about an hour to the funeral home. I backed up to the door of the preparation room, when the funeral director opened up the roll-up garage door, and waived me back and told me where to stop. Before I could even open my door, he was calling through the open back window of my truck that he wanted me to start making him more caskets like this one. I was pretty shocked, and so I waived to him that I would come around and talk more.
As we stood there, he complimented my work, and begged for me to build more caskets for him. As we talked, there seemed to be a market available for me to make more money on caskets than on my furniture and hand-made fine-art objects. But, I was left with the question, “did I want to be known at the end of my career as the guy that built caskets…? I haven’t made that decision yet.
A couple of days passed after the delivery of the casket, and I attended the Celebration Service at the funeral plot, laid out beside a little country church. As I walked up to the gathering, I was greeted by the family, and then introduced around. I listened as many people described how much having such a nice casket for their friend, husband, son, son-in-law, and co-worker, meant to them.
I was pretty shocked, and honored, after all, I had only spent a short amount of time on this project, and had a very tight budget to keep in. There were two pastors presiding over the funeral, and they both interviewed me for quite awhile, and we talked about death and ministry, and helping families in the grieving process.
I had mentioned in one “progress update” email to the family as I was working on the casket that I had decided not to use any wood stain on this casket. The young man that had died had given his heart to Christ a few years earlier, and through the sacrifice of Christ, this young man was viewed by God the Father as blameless and “stain-free”, being set free from the judgment of sin through his faith in Jesus Christ. I told the family in that email that I had decided to build his casket the same way. This email statement and decision to complete this casket without wood stain resonated with the family and pastors, and this illustration was used as a part of the funeral service.
I have felt honored many times by the work I have done when it is in the hands of those that paid me to do it. Most of the time, living so meagerly on my earnings, the only thing that keeps me going is the honor and praise that others provide me. There are many times that I think about how much easier living could be if I would just get a job and be willing to sit at a desk, and my wife reminds me of this quite often.
Woodworking seems to be the one thing in my life right now that I feel that am built to do best, and thus receive the most appreciation for. Most of the other things in my life I feel I’m doing pretty poorly at. Few times in my life has a project meant as much, or has sunk so deeply in my heart, as this project.
Eph 5:25-27 (NIV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
I hope you enjoy meditating on this story,
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Here is another casket project
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(The project design, photos, text, and story are protected by copyright by the Author, M.A. DeCou. No unauthorized use of this material is permitted.)
-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com