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

    Like

  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.

    Like

  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

 

Conversation(s) with an Anarchist

So there I was…

Sitting across the kitchen table from Dave,  having a cup of coffee/ (Starbucks/ French roast/ whole bean/ not ground.)  I asked him  what it meant to be an anarchist?

I could tell I had tapped into some strong anger….

As a peace-loving, non anarchist type myself, I was genuinely curious.

Besides he was drinking coffee from out of my stash….

I hate/ loath/ stay as far away as I can, from arguments of a non-productive nature.  Life is too short.

You do what you do..I do what I do.  (I’ll give you ten points if you can tell me what movie that phrase comes from.)

It is hard enough to work through an issue with a person I am in a long-term committed relationship with. Why in the world would I go there with someone who doesn’t feel that way about me?

Not going to happen.

But at the same time, I am nobody’s rubber stamp.  I have lived long enough to know  I do not always have a corner on the truth, and once in a while have the energy to “go there”  in the right setting and with the right person…

 

to be continued….?

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I so do  appreciate those of you that have me on your feed or take the time to stop by, read my stuff and occasionally leave a comment.  It adds immensely to my quality of life.  Each of you, in your own way,  give me just a little bigger sense of connection to the world.

Have a great weekend!   DM

 

 

 

Why does it have to be good or bad?

   

Yesterday I was out in the orchard and noticed something not quite right.   On closer inspection, I realized the hailstorm we got a couple of nights ago had really done a number on the young fruit.  It is still too early to tell for sure, but it looks like we may have a crop of all seconds.  This morning I was out in the garden setting up cages around the tomato plants, still musing on the apple crop damage, the following story came to mind….I had come across it several years ago and posted it on the blog at that time.   To this day, that story  helps me process life  when something comes along (like a hail storm.)  DM

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Once there was a farmer who  had one son and one horse.  One day his horse ran away.    When his neighbors heard about it, they came to comfort him.  “Such bad luck- we’re sorry your only horse ran away.” they said.

Who is to say whether it’s good or bad, replied the farmer.  All I can say for sure is, my horse has run away.  Time will tell whether this is good or bad.”   His neighbors just shook their heads and walk away.

A week later, his horse returned home-  along with 20 wild horses!!!

    His neighbors, upon hearing the news, came to congratulate him.  “What good luck you have.  Not only did your horse return, but he brought with him 20 more.  Such a lucky man you are!”

      “Who is to say whether it’s good or bad-  All I know is my horse has come home along with 20 wild horses-  and leave it at that.”  Again, his neighbors shook their heads and  scoffed –  “Of course it’s good luck you old fool!  Twenty new horses is obviously good luck!”

     The next week the  farmer’s son was out riding in the pen with the new horses, fell off and broke his leg.  Upon hearing the news, the neighbors came over to comfort the farmer.  “You were right- Those wild horses were not a sign of good fortune- now your son has broken his leg- and right before the harvest.  Such bad luck!”

      Again the farmer replied “Why do you constantly want to label something as good or bad.  Why can’t you just say, “My son has broken his leg while riding a horse and leave it at that.  Who is to say whether it is good or bad?”

       Upon hearing this, the neighbors were indignant ” Listen old man, to have your son break his leg at this time is unfortunate and a sign of bad luck.  You are such a fool to think otherwise.”

       The following week, an army came to town and drafted all the eligible young men, and sent them off to war in a far away place.  They did not take the farmer’s son on account of his broken leg.  Afterwards, the people were heartbroken and came to the farmer in tears-  You were right-  our sons are gone, we’ll probably never see them again- such bad luck our town has experienced!.

The old farmer (again) said- “Why do you continue to insist an event is good or bad?  We do not know the end from the beginning. Why can’t you just say, Our sons have been drafted, and only time will tell if it is good or not.

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I’m a dad to 4 great kids (and adopted dad  to another young woman)  The youngest is 28 and the oldest is 37 (today).  I’ve watched again and again  as God has used painful consequences to teach life lessons to my children.  I try not to get too worked up when I hear  some of the heartache that comes into their lives.

A night in jail is not necessarily a bad experience…..

I always told them- If you get busted, I’m not going to come and bail you out.”  “I never want to go back to that place as long as I live!!!”  they tell us later.    It took a while, but we as a family have laughed as this child has recounted the details of their experience in that night.

 

Tell me about some of the hard things in your life that have eventually resulted in good.  As always, thanks for reading along! DM

When Norah Met Mr. Dan

By Tara Wood

The day before my daughter Norah’s fourth birthday, something she said foreshadowed a remarkable event.

I’d just picked her up from preschool when she cautioned me to mind the elderly person walking across the parking lot at a glacier’s pace.

She went on to explain that she has a soft spot for mature folks:” I like old people the best ’cause they walk slow like I walk slow and they has soft skin like I has soft skin. They all gonna die soon, so I’m gonna love’em all up before they is died.”

Sure, it got kinda dark at the end, but I liked where her heart was.

I was struck by her thoughtfulness and empathy and posted that quote as a status update on Facebook when we got home.  I had no idea how much she really meant it.

The following day-her birthday again on the way home from school, she asked if we could stop at the grocery store to buy cupcakes for her and her six siblings to enjoy after dinner.

How do you say no to a birthday girl?

I popped Norah and her younger sister into one of those car-shaped grocery carts and headed toward the bakery.  After we picked up the cupcakes, I stopped at a clearance shelf that caught my eye.  While I was distracted, Norah was busy standing up in the cart, excitedly waving and gleefully proclaiming, “Hi old person!  It’s my birfday today!”

The man was elderly, stone-faced, and furrow-browed.  However, before I could shush her for calling him an old person or ask the earth to swallow me whole, he stopped and turned to her.

If he was troubled by my no-filter child, he didn’t show it.  His expression softened as he replied,” Well, hello, little lady!  And how old are you today?”

They chatted for a few minutes, he wished her a happy birthday, and we went our separate ways.

A few minutes later, she turned to me and asked,” Can I take a picture with the old man for my birfday?”  It was the cutest thing every, and although I wasn’t sure if he’d oblige, I told her we’d certainly ask.

We found the man a couple of aisles over, and I approached him,” Excuse me, sir?  This is Norah, and she’d like to know if you’d take a photo with her for her birthday?”

His expression morphed from confused to stunned to delighted.

He took a step back, steadied himself on his shopping car, and placed his free hand on his chest.” A photo?  With me?” he asked.

“Yes, suh, for my birfday!” Norah pleaded.

And so he did.  I pulled out my iPhone, and they posed together.  She placed her soft hand on top of his soft hand.  He wordlessly stared at her with twinkling eyes as she kept his hand in hers and studied his skinny veins and weathered knuckles.  she kissed the top of his hand and then placed it on her cheek.  He beamed.  I asked his name, and he told us to call him Dan.

We were blocking other shoppers, but they didn’t care.  There was magic happening in the grocery store that day, and we could all feel it.  Norah and “Mr Dan” sure didn’t notice.  They were chatting away like long-lost friends.

After a few minutes, I thanked Mr. Dan for spending a bit of his day with us.  He teared up and said, “No, thank you.  this has been the best day I’ve had in a long time.”  He turned to my daughter.” You’ve made me so happy, Miss Norah.”

They hugged, and we walked away.  Norah watched him until he was out of view.

I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t a weepy mess after their encounter.

I was blown away by this meeting and thought maybe some of the readers of my Facebook page might enjoy hearing about it.  I posted the story and a photo of the two of them.

Later that night, I received a private message from a local reader who recognized Mr. Dan.

His wife, Mary, had passed away six months earlier, and he had been lonely since his beloved had gone.  The reader wanted to let me know she was certain his heart was touched by my little girl, that he needed that connection and likely would never forget it.

I asked for Mr. Dan’s phone number and called him a few days later.

We visited Mr Dan’s cozy and tidy house- reminders of Mary still proudly displayed everywhere.  He had gotten a haircut, shaved, and put on slacks and dress shoes.  He looked ten years younger.  He’d set out a child’s table, blank paper, and crayons for Norah.  He asked if she’d draw some pictures for him to display on his refrigerator.  He happily agreed and went right to work.

We ended up spending nearly three hours with Mr. Dan that day.  H was patient and kind with my talkative, constantly moving girl.  He wiped ketchup off her cheek and let her finish his chicken nuggets.

We walked with him to his front door after lunch.  He pulled out a pocketknife and cut the single red rose blooming by his porch.  He spent ten minutes cutting every thorn off the stem before  handing it to his new friend.  She keeps that rose, now dry as a bone, in a zip lock bag under her pillow.

Norah asks about Mr. Dan every day.  She worries about him.  She wonders if he’s lonely, or cold, or has cheese for his sandwiches.  She wants him to be OK.  She wants him to feel loved.

Mr. Dan thinks about Norah too.  After another recent visit, he relayed that he hadn’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep since his wife died.  He told me that he had slept soundly every night since meeting my girl.

    “Norah has healed me,” he said.

That left me speechless and my cheeks wet with tears.

Seventy-eight years separate these two people in age….

Norah and I have made a promise to see Mr. Dan every week, even if it’s for only 15 minutes, even if only for a quick hug and to drop off a cheese Danish (his favorite!)

I invited him to spend Thanksgiving with us.  He’s part of our family now.  Whether he likes it or not, he has been absorbed into my family of nine, and just as Norah said, we’re gonna love him all up.

Taken liberally from the April 2017 edition of my Readers Digest written by Tara Wood

Norah and Mr. Dan 

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I (DM) read this tonight after work.   Just what the Dr ordered after a hard day in the trenches.  Wanted to share it with you. 🙂

 

 

 

Ticking

I saw my dad this morning for two seconds.

I wished there would have been some way to capture that image of him in a picture..but since that was impossible, I wanted to do the next best thing and write about it.

I had an early  trip out-of-town this morning,  and my route took me right past the farm.

And there he was…

I suppose he was outside feeding the  cats.

It was just after sunrise.

The artist in me noticed the  shadows.  (I notice shadows all the time)

I noticed he was wearing his bibs.

Keep in mind all of this happened in a moment.  When you’re going 60 miles per hour,  things fly by pretty quick.

Several things stirred in my gut, in that moment.

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12 hours later….

I just got off the phone with mom.  We talked for 15 minutes.

I asked her if Dad had seen me this morning? 😉

Yep, He figured I was going out for breakfast with a neighbor.  I told her no. Son John  and I were taking off on a 6 hour road trip and I had to stop by their neighbors to pick up a stock trailer.

My dad is in the evening season of his life.  Not sure how many more years he and mom will be able to live on the farm.  Hopefully, several more…

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Tell me about an older person in your life that has a special place in your heart…It doesn’t have to be a relative.    Maybe they are still alive, and maybe they have passed on.  What do (or did)  you appreciate  about that person, what do you miss ?  Would you mind sharing a memory or a story?  (The longer/ more detailed the better) 😉  DM

 

letters

 

Letters

bundle letters

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I came across some letters between 40 yr old Anita and her 60-year-old friend, mentor, and former college professor Ruth.

The letters are deeply personal and without a hint of pretension…refreshingly so.

Stuff you would never tell another person, unless you trusted them explicitly….

They cover many of the same issues  I wrestle with as a man, and we have as couple.

The letters that I have read so far have covered things like the inner angst Anita was having at  turning 40, such as:

” I looked in the mirror today.  I didn’t just glance to fluff my hair.  I gave myself a good, long look.  First, I cocked my head for a general assessment.  Then I leaned in for the scarier, unforgiving version of my own reflection.

     For the first time, it was a forty-year-old face staring back at me.  A smidgen of cheek sag…a bit of something turkey-like beginning on my neck…and some forehead frown lines all staking their claim on this once-unmarred facial frontier…”

Anita’s inner struggles to find a balance between career, motherhood, marriage, and her personal needs.

She had questions about sexuality in their marriage of 18 years.

She wrote about the struggles with an ongoing pattern of anger in her life….

There are a dozen additional letters that I have yet to read, all on topics of substance.

If you’d like a copy of these letters  you can get your own copy of them here. 😉

Pause.

CS Lewis wrote:  “We read to know we are not alone.”

Do you have a person or three with whom you have this kind of relationship?

I hope so.

Someone(s) with whom you can unpack the nitty-gritty of your inner world?   Someone you trust explicitly..someone who won’t judge you. Someone with whom you can be completely honest and share the most, off the wall, bizarre thoughts that occasionally (or regularly)  flitter through your brain?😉

Not to worry, we all do it.

I have several such relationships, and that is not by accident.  Back in 1995 for reasons that are not relevant here, we left a local church group I had sunk my emotional roots into…deeply. Unfortunately, 95% of my closest relationships were people in that group, and by and large,  the intimate conversations with those people came to a screeching halt when we left.

Swore I would never, ever again, keep all  of my relationship eggs in one basket, in one spot.  One of the spin-off results of that decision was to start keeping in  better touch with a handful of people via e-mail, interacting on things of substance in my life. That impulse eventually morphed into me starting  my first blog.

Same dynamic, just on a larger scale.

Spent some time with a young couple last night that are struggling. Towards the end of the evening, that came up (their struggling).

I was  glad they felt safe opening up to us.

Nothing harder for me than “festering” relationship stuff where I feel stuck.

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Those of you that occasionally or regularly interact here on this blog.  I appreciate it.

DM