Thoughts while building a pine casket revisited.

I wrote the following  three years ago…seemed fitting to re-post it this week, with the passing of Billy Grahm.  Hard to believe his wife has been gone 11 years already. DM
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Thoughts while building a pine casket

June 14, 2007, Ruth Grahm, wife  of Evangelist Billy Grahm  passed on into eternity.  She was 87.

Here is a portion of  a newspaper account: 

Shortly before he died, convicted murderer Richard Liggett was asked to make two of the simple plywood coffins he meticulously crafted for fellow prisoners. Except the caskets would be for Billy and Ruth Graham.

 Burl Cain, warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary said: “He (Richard Liggett) told me, of everything that ever happened in his life, the most profound thing was to build this coffin for Billy Graham and his family.”

That story caught my attention for several reasons.

#1 It was a simple pine casket.

#2 A prison is not the first place I would go shopping for a casket. 😉

#3  They were definitely making a statement and I like things like that.

It wasn’t too long before I ran the idea by my wife.  (She is such a patient woman) What would she think about  me building a pine casket for myself????

I’d read  you can actually use it as a book-case until the time comes when you  need it. 🙂

It wasn’t as much about saving money (though it would)  as just the experience.  I love building things out of wood.  I love history. (In my mind, I was thinking of building one of those tapered boxes from 150 years ago).

I had read stories about people going on a weekend retreat to build their own casket.  I have to say, that has always struck me as a little weird.

Switching gears slightly…

I remember mom telling me they were having a hard time convincing  grandma,  who was 90 something at the time to  write her will.  She was superstitious, and somehow by writing a will, it would hasten her passing.  At the time  if she didn’t have a will  then a judge would settle the estate, and the family did not want that if all possible.

Pause.

This past December we sat down with our lawyer and updated our wills.   It had been 10 years, and things have changed.

Secondly we filled out  something called The Five Wishes.   It has to do with health care and end of life related decisions.  It is a living will on steroids, simple to understand, upbeat, positive and thorough. Got it from a friend whose daughter works in hospice.  Check it out.

Finally, I got on-line and started looking for do it yourself casket designs.  I’m currently in the workshop building harvest tables again and decided I would take a stab at building a casket….my casket.

I started last week.

It has actually been quite interesting.

First let me say, I am not suicidal or depressed even though we are right smack dab in the middle of winter.  The new full spectrum LED lighting I installed in the kitchen a couple of weeks ago really works.

(I call them my  “happy lights”)

I am in great health.  If I live to be as old as 3 of my grandparents, I have another 40 years in the saddle.

I have come full circle in my mind from, I’m not 100% settled on this whole “build your own casket gig” to now feeling the creative juices kicking in.   I am thankful I have the time, ability, inclination and shop to do this project.

I am thankful  I am not plagued by the fears my grandmother must have labored under. I have a quiet sense of anticipation that is rooted in the Christian scriptures.

PS. I am taking orders btw 😉  (Prices starting at under $1000 plus shipping)

Plan to post pictures once it is finished. DM

Pine caskets for sale

6 thoughts on “Thoughts while building a pine casket”

  1. Great post. Enjoy your meditation on impermanance! Both for your mortal coil and tge box too.

    This is the second weekend i had the opportunity to do a little woodworking myself. Sawdust all over motorcycles, bicycles, and every surface in the garage. A dedicated woodshop is in the plan. Id love to pick your brain on woodshops on solar power e.g. Make the most of your hand tools and do batches of powertool work on the generator.
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    dust is a bugger. I finally got smart and started doing the heavy sanding outside. I have a dust bag on the belt sander (I use it a lot instead of a wood plane on boards that may have old nails buried in them) Also have a simple good air cleaner I picked up on Craigslist. That would be interesting to talk more about shop set up. You may actually be ahead of the curve on your thinking. thanks for the comment. It’s been pretty quiet over here on the new blog 😉 think I lost 3/4 of my former readers. DM

    Liked by you

  2. Although it might sound morbid to some folks, it makes perfect sense to me. I’ve told Cherie that if I’m buried, I want to be buried in something that will decompose (and I don’t want to be pickled before being put in it). A simple pine box works. But lately I’ve decided I’d prefer to be cremated. Cherie told me where she wants her ashes scattered. I told her to put mine in the compost pile. Not sure if she’ll do that though. I like the idea of being spread on a garden. Not any time soon of course. Maybe in about 50 years. Minimum.
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    yea, it’s “illegal” here to scatter the ashes (I think) but my first choice would be in the orchard. Good to hear from you Bill! DM

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  3. When I was in college, I used to go with a guy who had a Martin 12-string that he carried around in a wooden, casket-shaped case with a cross on the front, in brads. Oh, did I love that guitar. And, as he said, the wooden box was heavy, but it protected the guitar as well as anything would. It was lined, too. Burgundy velvet over some kind of padding.

    Did you know that there’s a group of monks who build caskets, there in Iowa? The Trappists of New Melleray Abbey, over by Dubuque, have been doing it for years. Here’s their page. I see they have cremation vessels now — that’s new since I’ve visited their site.

    I want to be cremated, but buried. The issue is where. I could land in Iowa, since my mom was cremated, and hence used only half of her space. On the other hand, I have a lot here in Texas, which is a story all of its own. Decisions, decisions.
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    Yep, those Trappist are only about 30 minutes from us. I have been to their gift store a time or two..and eaten some of their home made caramels (which are to die for) I vote you come to Iowa (to get planted) 🙂 DM

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  4. Have you seen the pretty caskets they build in Ghana? Maybe you could make one of those?
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    I have not. Remember..I am a simple man 😉 If it’s too tricky I will have to punt. DM

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  5. Makes sense to me! I think a lot about articles I’ve read/conversations I’ve had about what a “death-phobic” society we now live in… almost as if there are some of us who think they will avoid arriving where we are all going…(and I don’t mean where we are all going AFTER death, just the fact that all of us will have to arrive at death, eventually!)
    I bet building a coffin is not a bad way to get to thinking about one’s own mortality and just meditating on death and what it does and doesn’t mean, what does and doesn’t matter to one, and so on.
    I would love to see pics when you are done.

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  6. Now you have got me thinking. I’d like to make mine out of old weatherboards with the paint flaking off.(I think you guys call them ‘clapboards’. Is that because everyone sits back and claps when a wall gets finished?) I think my wife would probably burn it the day I drop off the coil and then get a nice one with shiny varnish.

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Why I Write

Got a call this morning from a friend.  Their family was in the middle of one of those situations where you are grasping for straws.

Just so happened, I’d walked through something very similar 10 years ago.

We talked for 5 minutes,  I mostly listened…

When it seemed appropriate, I shared just enough of my story to let her know I  got it….I put into words some of the confusion she was feeling.  By the end of our conversation, I heard  just a glimmer of hope in her voice.

I called her tonight just to check on her.   Still not out of the woods, but at a better place than this morning.

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Dawned on me tonight, that is the main reason I keep this blog.

CS Lewis wrote: ...”I read to know I am not alone.” 

Well, I write to let you know you are not alone.

Real life is full of ups and downs, highlights and low lights….if I am to believe social media,  then many people’s lives are one big success story….and we both know that is not true. Life is a mixed bag.   Currently things in my life are on an even keel…and I like it that way.  If a person dropped into my life for the first time right now, they’d never guess some of the stuff I’ve wrestled with and won.

Friend of mine joined a grief support group a few years ago after loosing one of her children.  One of the older women in the group had buried a husband and two children.   When she spoke, (the older woman) she spoke with insight forged on the anvil of life.  She said she had credentials.  She wasn’t just spouting theory.

That pretty much sums up where I am coming from.

If you dig a little deeper on this blog, there is some darker stuff as well, and I’ve put it there intentionally.

Yes, I’ve been known to write about refinishing  a claw foot tub,  tending an apple orchard, or dealing with a testy neighbor…. At the end of the day, my main intention is to share my ordinary life with anyone who cares to follow along.  I work real hard at not spouting trite platitudes…

I hate them.

Two days ago, a friend shared with me in confidence  something he had been thinking.  I told him, I’d had similar things go through my head before..

“No way!   Really?”

Oh yea. 🙂

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That is the long and short of it.

Gonna leave you with a song…make sure you turn up the volume. 😉

DM

 

Birthdays

Having a cup of coffee  with my mom on her 80th birthday.

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I have been thinking about how to mark my 60th birthday, which is in about a week.

For my 40th,  we had a big party.  Large guest list, lots of food, skits, gag gifts, black balloons,  the whole enchilada.

For my 50th,  wife sent out letters, far and wide to the people in my life, asking them to write a note…memories, things they appreciated about me, stories etc. bound them up in a keepsake book of memories.  Things  you might say about someone @ their funeral visitation but never get around to saying it. To this day, it remains my most prized possession. (I will come back to this in a moment)

For my 60th, my mind as been thinking about the book Tuesdays With Morrie, and his answer to what his idea of how to spend the perfect day.  Morrie was dying of ALS and he was having these powerful meaningful conversations with a young man he’d taught from college…

Here is where my thoughts are  so far. 😉

I am SO excited and thankful as this chapter of my life arrives.  Honestly, I love being at this season/ age of my life.  I’ve already lived a full, full life.  Still have much of the passion and energy I had as a 30 yr old, just tempered with life experience and wisdom. I feel like I am in the prime of my life.  Would not want to go back and repeat any of it.

I do not have any regrets.

I have been able to shed much (not all) of the people pleasing baggage I was carrying when I was 20.

I know myself.  I have a  pretty good sense of my strengths and weakness and can own up to both freely.

I have lived to see my children’s children.

I am in a vibrant relationship with  the same woman for almost 40 years.  That is no small feat, considering what a rascal I can still sometimes be.

I have checked off most of the things on my bucket list…(except running a mile nonstop, and traveling to the Highlands of Scotland, and Northern German)

Both of my parents are still very much alive, in the land of the living and both of them wrote the most meaningful letters to me for my 50th.  What more could I want…

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I have no desire for a large party this time.  I hope to take the day off of work.  Start out by cooking my own breakfast of little smokies,  2 eggs over easy,  fresh pot of Starbucks French Roast whole bean/ not ground) coffee, couple of pieces of white toast, with butter.

I have a new rifle I would really like to zero in.  Haven’t shot it yet.  Need to set up some targets/ 50 yards/ 100 yards/ 200 yards and fine tune it.  I had a gun smith zero in the scope with a laser but still need to take it out to the field. Don’t even  know how to clean it for sure so that will have to be part of that activity…..

After that, the day is still open until evening, when I hope to have a dinner of Kentucky Fried Chicken/ extra Crispy/ dark meat.

(Oh, I know I am going to work a nap into the afternoon @ some point.  That is one of the life lessons I learned early into adulthood.  How to take a nap without shame.  How to turn off the workaholic old German that still lives in my head.  I’m going to do it, just to remind him of who is in charge….

Going to wrap out the day by renting a movie.  Wonder Woman.  I’ve watched the trailers multiple times.  Looks like a great “escape” movie. Regardless of what those Court Jesters in Hollywood say.

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And finally a shameless plug…

If you’re so inclined/ absolutely no pressure… I would love to hear from  you that are part of my blog family… tell me  something(s)   you appreciate about me….Real good chance your words will end up in my book of memories.  If you’d rather not leave your words on the blog/ shoot me an e-mail, or nothing @ all..that’s OK too. 🙂

Later! DM

 

A Second Cookie

There are 106 partially completed blog posts sitting in my draft folder,with titles like Locked and Loaded, I Once Met A Model, She Lives In My Head,  Russian Nesting Dolls, Reina De La, Two Pieces Of Sand, etc.

Scrolling through them this morning,  the following caught my eye.  I know I’ve told the story about the second cookie before, but  it bears repeating…at least I think so. 😉  It has been a very good week since getting the biopsy results on Tuesday.  Really touched me how many of you took the time to comment and wish me well. DM

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I come home most nights physically and mentally exhausted from work.

We are re-roofing a 160 ft long cattle shed and as I mentioned to Tim  Monday morning when he came in 20 minutes late, he did not have a clue as to  all of the job pressures that I was under….

Concerns about the wind ripping off the #30 felt before we got it covered.  If that happened,I would have to absorb the cost of material and labor to redo it.

Safety concerns.

Dealing with  mud and not being able to get equipment in to where it needs to be.

Time pressures.

Employee’s coming in late or not at all.

Cash flow pressures.

Communication and expectation issues with the customer,  bla bla bla…

Some day he might understand, and when that day came, I wanted him to give me a call. 😉

I am living my life for the long haul, and yes, while this current project sucks a lot out of me, I am doing OK.

I have learned to pay attention to my inner world and pace myself.

I am so thankful my wife recognizes my need to transition when I get home and gives me space.

I  know three men, all married to women who regularly put major expectations on their husband’s time after they get home from work.  None of these men are what I would call  couch potatoes.  I was catching up with two of them recently and both  casually mentioned some of the tasks their wives had saddled them with in addition to their own personal responsibilities.

I kept quiet, but inside I was thinking, you have got to be kidding me.

(I’m not talking about fixing a leak in the sink, but hours and hours of busy work.)

Years ago, Mrs DM used to take care of an elderly lady I’ll call Ann.  Ann’s husband  (Carl) was still very much alive.  Wife’s job was mostly to do a little laundry, pick up around the house, that sort of thing.  Ann was pushing mid 90’s at this point.  One morning while wife was sitting in the chair talking with Ann,  Carl starts grilling Ann about the 2nd cookie he suspects she has eaten that morning…..

A second cookie!!!

Now I get it.  She didn’t have an active life style and cookies = empty calories =weight gain.  The other side of the equation was Ann was still 100% still in her right mind, she didn’t have long to live, and cookies were one of the few pleasures she could enjoy.

To this day, that exchange comes up in our home.  If either one of feels the other is over stepping their bounds with the other, we will bring up Carl and micro-managing the cookie count.

This same issue could just as easily surface between a parent and their older child, or a child and their aging parent.

Boundaries,  and imposing my will on the will of someone else who is of sound mind and body, “in the name of love.”

If you are reading this and happen to fall into the camp of being a controller,

I have two words for you…

Stop it!

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PS.  If you are on the receiving end of a controlling personality,  and need to talk, feel free to leave  a comment and or question.  I have a great readership base here,  with lots of insight.  DM

 

Mary Did You Know?

Mary started working for me in 2006.

To this day, she remains one of my favorite employees.  We lost touch after she moved back east.  I was thinking about her  yesterday as I was roofing.

At the time I hired her, I  was looking for one laborer.  She met all of my qualifications but one…

Needed to be able to carry an 80 pound bundle of shingles up a ladder.

We talked about that at the interview. She thought she could probably do it.  She told me her last job as an archaeological assistant  was very  physical. She liked working outdoors, in all kinds of weather, wasn’t afraid to get dirty.  In the end, I hired her and young man named Brady.   I knew Brady could handle the shingle lifting.

Like I said,  Mary came to mind yesterday as that Christmas song Mary Did You Know  was  flitting through my brain…

Couple of quick stories about Mary.

First week she came to work, she cussed like a sailor.  I didn’t say anything. Figured she just wanted to make a good first impression with a bunch of rough construction guys.  I used to cuss like a sailor myself, so I didn’t think too much about it.  About the 3rd day she came to work, she brought the cussing  up.  Seems she and her day care lady were talking about her new job working for me….(whom I kind of knew)  The day care lady went on and on about what a “good Christian man I was.”  (yea right)  so Mary  told me she was sorry about all of the “f bombs.”

I laughed.  Told her not to worry about it.  To my ears, they were just words.  I noticed a change  after that conversation. She became more relaxed and  genuine.

Few months later, we were heading to work one morning.  She told me to pull over, quick….  she was feeling sick.   Lost her breakfast next to a telephone pole.  (sorry)  When she got back in the truck, I asked her if she (quoting now) “Had one in the oven?” 😉

“Absolutely not!  It was probably a greasy salad dressing I had the night before.”  She said.  Well, me, having watched my wife go through pregnancy  four times  wasn’t convinced.

The time of day was suspect. The fact she didn’t have the flu made me suspicious.

In the end, I was right. 🙂

As we got closer to Christmas that year,  I could tell she was under financial stress.

No family in the area.

Pregnant…

My heart went out to that young family, 1000 miles from home.   I mentioned something briefly in an adult Sunday School class I was a part of.

“Wouldn’t be fun to pass the hat  in the spirit of Christmas?”   I told the class I would have to come up with a way to present it to her, because she was not a mooch.

There is nothing quite as much fun as being able to help someone out who really needs it, and who is not expecting it.  We ended up collecting  about $300 as I recall.   I gave it to her that next Monday morning before work.

She cried.

Said she couldn’t accept it.

Can’t remember now what I said, but eventually she  did.  The following week, more money trickled in…

I had to apologize and tell her I had more money for her.

It wasn’t my fault.  Someone else had heard about their situation and wanted to help.  I think I got a hug out of that one. 🙂

I’ve tried to track Mary down a few times since she moved but she’s fallen off the radar. She reminded me a lot of my eldest daughter Angie.

I’ll close with Pentatonix’s version of Mary Did You Know.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s generosity?

Have you ever had the chance to be on the giving end to help someone out?

Tell me your stories!

I want to hear about it!   DM

It Was the chicken taking a dust bath that did it…

Thanksgiving morning 2017.

Granddaughter asleep by my side.

She is two. She and I  were looking at pictures on my phone to keep her occupied, while her parents and my wife tried to get some much-needed sleep.

It was the chicken taking a dust bath that did the trick.

We watched it five time.  It was a forty-second video,  and out she went.

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This past Monday, in the middle of the night, I woke up with vertigo. It was nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It was not the flu.  Mid morning I lost my cookies. (sorry)  No way was I going to be able to work on a roof, so I stayed home.

My first thought was cancer.  Dam stuff had went to my brain.  I have not been diagnosed with cancer…won’t have the biopsy for two more weeks.  We’ve already talked at length about living wills, what to do if we ever find ourselves in various situations. We’ve had those conversations multiple times over the years, while we were both healthy and not under the gun…so all of that gives a quiet back drop to my Thanksgiving 2017.

So,  sitting here this Thanksgiving morning, feeling very thankful and blessed.  The vertigo has subsided.  All of our children are back for Thanksgiving. Two more grand babies on the way, one is a girl, the other, it is still too early to tell.

I am cautiously optimistic that three weeks from now life will go back to normal…but until then, I find myself enjoying the small simple gifts.

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Have you ever seen a chicken taking a dust bath?

If you haven’t, check this out:

Tell me three things you have to be currently thankful for.  I want details. 😉 DM

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Update 12 hours later….here is a picture of me and my 6 grandchildren.  Took this @ lunch today.  It was a trick to keep them all corralled for very long.  Lots of wiggle.

I’m not sure it is worth noting….but I then again, I think it is. :-)

I needed to stop yesterday morning for fuel before heading out-of-town to install some laminate flooring. Typical small town mom and pop convenience store during early morning  rush.  People in a hurry.   Grabbing a few lottery tickets, a pack of smokes…..fuel…. the regulars…and then there was me.

There was a momentary break in the flow of customers.  Two girls working behind the counter.  One stepped into the kitchen area to do something…the second young lady…well, I was struck by two things she did.

First..she was humming a song.

Secondly..she sort of skipped/ (danced?) over to the cash register to ring me up.

It wasn’t contrived.

You could feel her cheerful energy even before acknowledging me as her next customer.

It was refreshing.  Encounter someone with a little splash of  (not sure what to call it?).

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We were out-of-town last weekend.  Took a road trip to visit daughter # three and help re-roof her house.  While I was up on the roof, doing some bonding and having quality time with my son-in-law and a few of his friends,  Mrs DM headed up town to do some retail therapy with our daughter.   One of their stops was a place called the “Weigh and Pay”   I’ve never been there.  Discount/ second-hand store kind of place.  One of my daughter’s favorite places to find a bargain.  Daughter was laughing and bantering with  the cashier, who obviously knew daughter.  Wife was next in line,  Wife quietly leans in and whispers to the cashier, “She is my sunshine.”

Clerk (large African-American woman) cracks a big smile, and  tells my wife…“I know what you mean!   I just love her spirit!”

(If you’re a long time reader, you have heard me brag about this daughter before. When she worked @ the local Subway, people would come in and request a song.   I am not kidding you.

Heck, I could tell you stories from all  of our kids lives when it comes to this stuff.  Cool thing is, it has absolutely nothing to do with money, status, or education.  You can’t buy it.  It flows from their hearts.

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I do know these people are a blessing to encounter.

Saying goodby after the 2017 roofing party

Two things….help me out with a name for what I’m trying to articulate.

Secondly, Is there anybody in your life who has a little bit of whatever I’m talking about?   Doesn’t mean they don’t have their off days.  Maybe it’s the post-mistress at your local post office…or a waitress or bartender @ one of your regular stops… Maybe it’s your car mechanic, or your sister-in-law, or one of your kids… Maybe it’s you?   Tell me a story (or three.)  DM