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

 

Assertiveness Training

Wanted to share with you the latest 16 second assertiveness training exercise I came across.

Watch it daily, preferably  several times a day until it begins to seep into the soft tissue of your brain.

Don’t argue with me, just do it. 😉

For me, watching someone role model a behavior sticks better than just reading it out of a book…

Would love to hear your stories about standing your ground in the face of overwhelming odds.

Here’s that clip:

I know you probably think I am joking, but I am  not.

Have a good weekend! DM

In case you ever wondered what they look like…

This will have to be short…

Monday I got a call from Don. There is no doubt in my mind Don is a millionaire.   Don is a regular client of mine and asked if I could stop by his farm house  and take a look at some windows that needed “tweeking.”    After I got the key from him, I grabbed number one son  and away we went.

The first thing I noticed when we walked into the kitchen was the smell of dogs.  Then I remembered the last time I worked there, there were two or three ankle biters running around outside.

Ankle Biter:  Small dogs that don’t stop barking.

I changed the furnace filter, grabbed a busted storm window sash, made some mental notes and headed home.

We were no more than two or three minutes down the road, when number one son said something about a small bug on his coat.   He grabbed a piece of duct tape and caught it before it got away. Minute later,  he got another one, then a third. Son has this thing about spiders anyway, so I wasn’t paying too  much attention….He did something with his phone and announced those small bugs were in fact fleas.

While I had been switching out the furnace filter and a window pane, he had been on his hands and knees checking out the carpets.

When we got back to town, I texted Don and suggested the first thing he needed to do was call the Bug Man and fumigate the house. His house had fleas.

Ten seconds later my phone rang. It was Don. There was a momentary pause on the other end of the phone…then Don said to me..”That explains it.  I had several bits on my legs this morning when I woke up.”  (Don had spent quite a while at that farm-house earlier in the day assessing the situation.)

I suggested there was a very good chance he had hauled some of those fleas home with him..and they were “probably” in his bed.

More silence on the other end of the  phone..

“Do you think I should tell my wife?”

That’s your call, I said, but would definitely change the bedding.”

Being the ever thoughtful person I am,  I sent him the following picture:

Flea under electron microscope

Image compliments of google.

Never did hear from Don.

Makes me wonder if his wife knows….

Later!

PS In case you were wondering where things are at, my biopsy has been rescheduled for 1 PM December 28th.

Merry Christmas to me. 🙂

 

Jitters

I found myself sitting at the head table this past Sunday afternoon with an executive director and her staff, for a 50th anniversary celebration.  I had been invited to do a 30 minute presentation as part of their program.

As I was working on my salad, I  heard the snippet of a conversation, between the director and one of the staff…

“You’ll do fine! A little nervousness is normal.”

Since the director and I were in the same boat, (both experiencing “pre-presentation” jitters) I joined the conversation.

A little background….

I am not one of those people who loves the limelight.  Just the opposite.  I prefer the back row.  (That way I can quietly slip out if I need to use the little boys’ room.)

I’ve mentioned portions of my  story before  but when I was  22, I realized   shyness  low self-esteem was hamstringing my life on multiple fronts.

 I was sick and tired of it.

On a  lark I stopped by the office of a friend who also happened to be a nun trained in social work.  (She seemed like a safe person.)

I looked across the desk,  told her my story and said, “Can you help me?  Do you have any suggestions?”

(She did.)

And over the course of time, (we’re talking months/ not 30 minutes)  little by little,  large chunks of my inner crap  began to be dealt with.

No  Kristina I have not arrived. 😉

I have lost track of the number of times now I have spoken in public, in various settings…at least a couple of hundred.  To this day however, I still experience  jitters every time.

There are lots of helpful books, articles, courses, etc. on public speaking, dealing with anxiety in front of a crowd, low self-esteem, yada, yada,  so rather than just regurgitate  10 suggestions you can pick up in a workshop, I wanted to give you a glimpse into what was going on in little old me this past Sunday afternoon.

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Two  images were playing nonstop  on the  screen of my mind…

The first clip was an Olympic wrestler I saw several years ago on TV.  As the camera man panned the event, he stopped on a wrestler, sprawled out on his back, taking a nap.  I can still remember the commentator talking about it.  In just a few minutes, this wrestler was going to be center  stage vying for an Olympic metal, and yet there he was, asleep.  He was in the zone.  He had tuned out all of the distractions and found his happy place (my words now/ not the TV commentator.) 😉

SO..whenever I find myself in the final  hours leading up to something that is giving me jitters, I think of that wrestler.

The second thing playing on the screen was even more powerful….and this one wasn’t “playing” as much as it just was….

The tiger that lives inside of me

photo compliments of google

I sensed this tiger pacing back and forth.  Last Sunday was the most pronounced I’ve ever felt it.  It was like he was pacing back and forth in my mind. Ever few minutes  he would shove his shoulder against the door of the cage to see if it was still locked.

He wanted out.

I rarely give a presentation on anything unless I’m feeling passionate about the subject.

So Sunday afternoon, after an introduction, I got out of my seat, walked up to the podium….

and out jumped the tiger.

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They say speaking in public is a common fear. Do you have it? Have you done it ? (spoke in public) Tell me about it.

 

 

 

 

So I did

Stairway to heaven

(My view yesterday  while I worked)

Woke up yesterday morning to  drizzle.   I’d hoped to finish a metal roof on  our two-story garage.   The garage is an old house dating back to the 1870’s.  If we had the funds, it would make an awesome guest house.   Sloped ceilings in the second floor rooms. Old old wallpaper still on the walls. Blueish green antique doors.  A chimney that still works…..

and a family of raccoons that have moved into the attic.

I realized a few weeks ago, they’d put a couple of holes right through the roof into the attic, which explained why we were starting to get water stains in the ceiling of our storage room.

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Pause.

We were re-watching an episode of Downton Abbey last night.  There was going to be a cricket match between the house staff and the locals… Molesley (one of the footman) kept going on and on at how good he was at cricket….his dad had been a coach….it made me cringe listen to him toot his own horn.  I looked over at my wife and told her,If I ever start sounding like that...tell me! “

Sometimes in my desire to keep it real here, I want to write about  the good stuff that is going on in my life, (like the retaining wall job from last week.) But, then I start to second guess myself, lest I sound like a Molesley 🙂

Life is a mix.

I’m not interested in the sanitized version of your life.  If something good is happening, I want to hear about it.

And, if something has really got you vexed, I want to hear about that too.  Because my life is a mixture, hearing about how other people deal with things helps keep me sane.

I have some older friends that I consider pretty well grounded.  My favorite stories from them are about things that trip them up…and I want details...so on that note, I am going to close with a recent event from my life.

 

I was approached a few years ago by XYZ. (a local store) They wanted to sell our apples through their venue.

Sure. Win-win  I thought.

Because it was a new business, in my desire to help them out, I suggested,  rather than getting paid,  I would spend what they owed me as in store credit.

Sure she said. Sounded great she said.

Well, we did it for two years,  but every time I stepped into the store, I sensed  an under-current of hurry/ hurry/ stress, stress.   This last season, I kept asking where we were at on the ledger sheet?   I would hear,

“I’ve written everything down..don’t have the exact total now….but I will.”

This happened multiple times. Got more awkward ever time I brought it up.  Finally I said, “Just cut me a gift certificate and  that will simplify things for both of us.”

Even that felt like I was pulling teeth.

Did I mention, the owner, sucked at returning phone calls, texts, etc.  Yea, well I finally called, left a message and said the following Thursday I would stop in and wanted to pick up the gift certificate.   I texted a reminder the day before, since no one ever picks up the phone when I called.   When I stopped in, the wife wasn’t there, but the husband mentioned she was up like at 5:30 that morning working on my total.

I sensed tension.

I’m thinking to myself, this is ridiculous.

Life is too short.

Selling apples is a hobby for me.

I am not even generating  that much income.

I refuse to put myself in a situation where there is tension every time I step through the door,  so I  decided earlier this summer, I had had enough.  I contacted the husband. Told him I was simplifying my life this Summer and would not be selling apples through their venue in the Fall.

That would give him plenty of time to line up another source for apples.

Well, there has been a $35.00 gift certificate attached to a magnet on the frig ever since.  I have not wanted to go back to the store.  Toyed around with giving it to someone else as a gift.

Then, the other day,  I thought, what the heck...that is my money.  Plus, they have delicious cheese in the store…and locally produced wine.  I am going to stop, and buy a block of delicious blue berry cheddar , and pick up a bottle of semi sweet Riesling Castle wine.   Then I am going to celebrate the completion of two very stressful projects.

So I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa Nice

Daughter # 2  (Kathy) was heading home from work a year ago about this time of day when it happened.  She noticed the car in front of her begin to fish-tale.  Then quoting now, “chunks of rubber began  flying off.”   Kathy didn’t know who was behind the wheel, but instinctively pulled over to see if she could help.

Out stepped a young Korean woman, her hands were shaking.  Her name was Ling.

“What just happened?”   Ling asked Kathy

“Your back tire blew” she said.

“Do you have someone you can call?” Kathy asked.

Ling pulled out her phone, but because they were in a low spot, she didn’t have a  signal.

Ling was a music major, heading for a recital in Dubuque.  Kathy offered to stay with her until they could figure out what to do.   Kathy called a local towing company she knew.   They ended up taking car back to the shop to address the tire situation.  (Don’t tell anyone I told you this) but Kathy offered to pick up the tab on the tow. When the tow truck driver realized she was doing this, he knocked 50% off the total and told her, if she  brought him in a plate of home made cookies  he would call it even.

After the spare was put on the car, and a couple of the other tires  rotated, Ling was back on the road.  Kathy and Ling kept in touch periodically throughout last year.

Last week, Ling’s parents were stateside for  graduation.  They wanted to meet “the angel” who had helped their daughter the year before, and go out for lunch.

As a parent of three daughters myself, I can very easily put myself in their shoes.

 

Kindness is alive and well in Iowa.