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

 

L’chai-im

“To life, l’chai-im! 
L’chai-im, l’chai-im, to life! 
One day it’s honey and raisin cake, 
Next day a stomach ache, 
Drink L’chai-im, to life!

From the movie Fiddler On The Roof

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I saw two pictures yesterday that  made me think. First one was a young woman in a glittery golden dress at a wedding.  The second picture was the same young woman three days later in a dark sweatshirt, holding her sick baby.

Life. L’chai-im

Life is a mixed bag.  Good stuff/ blah stuff / sometimes  soul crushing stuff/ all rolled into one big happy meal.

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I turned 60 on Tuesday.

It was not a good day.

Had nothing to do with me turning 60.   ( I still love being this age for all of the reasons I mentioned  a week ago. (see here)

Nope, what tripped me up was my plumber not coming to hook up the claw foot tub I have been refinishing  for my birthday.   He knew it was my birthday/ I’d touched bases with him just two days before to confirm Tuesday would work. No exaggeration, I have been patiently waiting, literally for weeks, figured this would be the perfect way to celebrate my special day.

I had visions of me having a celebratory soak in the tub…maybe a glass of wine…

It never happen.

He told me he was buried in service calls and would touch bases at noon.  That never happened either. (He never called.)

By mid morning on my special day, my good attitude was in  trouble and by 1 PM I was stuck.

Stuck in a mopey  low grade funk  that 24 hours later morphed into anger.

Tripped up by an expectation.

I should know better….But it was my 60th…how many 60th birthdays do we get?  Am I not entitled to having just a few expectations?  🙂

I reminded myself, I had a fully functioning bathroom on the 2nd floor…and there are millions of people all around the world right now that would love to have indoor plumbing with hot running water/ and I am sulking just because I am not important enough for my regular plumber to make me a priority on my 60th birthday for cryingoutloud….

It took me the better part of two days to regain my equilibrium.

Two days!!!  I  give myself a D- on that one.  Something that should have taken mere seconds, taking 2 days…wow.

I was “probably” not the easiest person to live with….

I posted a picture of the tub last night on Facebook after I finally shook off my funk:

Claw foot tub almost ready.

My plumber buddy saw the picture, apologized for dropping the ball on Tuesday and asked about my rubber ducky?

I told him “No worries.”He was still my favorite plumber but I didn’t have a rubber ducky.”

Last night I was pricing  large rubber ducks on Amazon .  

Yea, I’m easily entertained.

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And then, in the mail yesterday, I got a letter and $25 cash from an Amish farmer.  He profusely apologized for his tardiness in paying me and his rubber check.  He asked me to forgive him. 

I already had.

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We are going to a benefit lunch today for a 54 year old woman I know who works behind the meat counter at our grocery store.  I used to work with her at my sisters restaurant.  I’ve always liked her.  Down to earth/ no airs about her.  Three months ago, she was diagnosed with stage 4 liver and bone cancer.

Don’ think I haven’t been smok’n that one in my pipe…

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Time for coffee….

DM

 

 

 

 

Quoting Harry Potter

The other day I was reading through a comment thread on a garden forum.  Out of the blue, someone quoted a verse from the Bible to back up what they were saying. (It felt out of context/ and  just a wee bit off putting)  Next person weighed in and said to them, “You might as well  quote a line out of Harry Potter…it has the same effect….”  

Yea, I thought to myself, this is the world in which we live….and if a person decides to get into a discussion on the Internet,  (which I never do, except here in the blog-o-sphere among those of you I know)   you need to choose your words wisely.

Unless I live in a bubble,  and only talk with those in my bubble, I am constantly interacting with people from  wide and diverse viewpoints on every issue under the sun….. They are called “World views.”  Everybody has one…from the homeless guy living under a bridge in Portland, to the Queen of England.  From the ISIS fighter in Syria to the organic farmer just down the road from me.  Each of us looks at life through the lens of our world view.  It helps me make sense of what I see, how I interact with others, how I live my life.

I have always found that fascinating….

(This is stirring  up a whole bunch of random bunny trails in my head right now/  but I need to stay focused, because I really do have something  I am leading up to…)

It has to do with the Amish farmer I have written about twice before… here and then here.

Thursday of last week I got a check in the mail from the Amish Farmer.  Two months late/ but a check never the less.  There was a $5 tip and a note attached, hoping he could come back for more apples in the fall….(I thought to myself..we shall see.)   Anyway,  instead of doing what I normally do and cash the check at my bank, something told me to stop by his bank…just in case.

Well, I happened to know the lady in the drive-up window, so I asked her  to verify that he did in fact have enough money to cash the check…

30 seconds later…….

Nope.

He had sent me a rubber check.

I was told by someone who knew, this Amish man typically got paid on Fridays, so to give him the benefit of the doubt, I tried again on Saturday.

Nope.

Still no good.

I decided yesterday to return the check with a letter.  Wanted to share that letter here in its entirety, along with some background into why I said what I said.  I reference the Bible in my letter. In his worldview and in mine, the Bible is a reference point.  A source of common authority ( In theory at least.)  To his ears  I am not just quoting Harry Potter.  😉

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1/4/2018

Dear ***,

Enclosed is your check for $25 that the bank would not cash.  I tried twice, and both times I was told there was insufficient funds.   Life is too short to deal with this, so I am returning the check to you.

I need to tell you a story.

A few years ago now, I heard about an Amish family moving into the area, with possibly more families to follow.  I thought to myself, neat.   I would love to meet them. My background is German.  My dad still speaks low German.  I grew up on a small dairy farm, plus I am a Christian, been a Christian since I was 22 years old.

So even though I am not Amish, I felt there were many things I share in common with an Amish person.  This past June we had a bad hail storm. Really did a number on our apple crop.  I decided to turn a heartache into a blessing.  Instead of marketing damaged apples,  we decided to share them with others, (that whole “do unto others what you would have done unto you” thing.)    Your family just happened to be the first family that approached me, after we had made that decision.  Make no mistake, I could have advertised #2 apples on Craigslist, or our orchard page on Facebook but I chose not to.

So I was excited when you  approached me about getting some free apples.   I was a little taken back by your comment, that you were not going to share my phone # with your Amish friends until you had gotten all of the apples that you wanted.

First impressions are so important.

The second thing that seemed a little “off “ was as we walked to my  apple wood stash (You’d asked if we might have any apple wood for smoking?)   It felt like you were trying to get as much apple wood as you could for the least amount of money…I sensed you thought you were dealing with a naive, simpleton…

Trust me I am not.  It did irk me just a little, after giving you hundreds of dollars worth of free apples, that  you were still trying to dicker with me. 

We talked about $20 for 1/3 of the pile of wood..and you would leave the money on the mantle of my shop in case I wasn’t around…simple as that.  (Couple of years before, I was selling my apple wood to a sports bar in *** for $1 a pound..  I made over $1000 that year, when my work was slow, and I needed $ to pay my bills)  So that apple wood pile for me was money in the bank…My contact @ the bar no longer worked there, and I wasn’t sure the new owners would remember me and buy the wood..which was why I thought, what the heck, if this Amish farmer needs a little apple wood, why not….

Skipping ahead to early  December, you called to say you were coming the next day to pick up the apple wood.  I happened to be in the house doing book work the day you stopped, so when I went out to the shop later that day to get my $20 I was honestly taken back, you had not left the money, nor a note, nor called me to let me know  you hadn’t left the $20, which is why I called you and asked about the $. 

You said  “$20 may not seem like a lot of money to me, but it was to you.  Things were a little tight right then, but you assured me the next time you went to town, you would stop by and pay.  

 I said, I felt the same way…$20 is a lot of money.  I asked you how long that might be…a  couple weeks?  You assured me, it would be two weeks or before.  Well,  a month went by and no $20.    I was starting to get agitated with you

It really has nothing to do with the money. 

Heck, I gave you several hundred dollars of apples, (not to mention the apple wood) if it were about the money,  I would have charged you for the apples way back when you first stopped.  I was upset by your lack of integrity.    I thought to myself, this Amish man I am dealing with is leaving a bad taste in my mouth.  I can’t believe they (the Amish) are all this sneaky and selfish.

Rather than continue to stew on it, I sent you an invoice a month after you got the wood.

We went to a program at our local library early  January about the Amish lifestyle.  I was tempted to tell my story about your dealings with me, but decided not to..

it would not have been right.  I did learn however about how your churches are structured..how there are deacons and bishops that oversee 25 to 30 families in an area. I decided to attempt to find out the name of the bishop or deacon in your area and bring my situation before  him.

In Matthew 18:15-17 it says:

“If your brother wrongs you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, then tell it to the church….” (the goal here is reconciliation/ conflict resolution)

So, ***, I tried talking to you one on one..followed up with an invoice in the mail.…then took it to the next level, and brought it before your deacon.   I talked with *** your deacon  a couple of weeks ago.  He assured me he would be talking to you)…

So here I sit with a worthless check,  and I’m thinking to myself… boy would I  love to come to one of your church meetings,  stand before the assembly, and tell my story about  brother ***  who is leaving a not so good impression with some of the people in the area.  As an Amish man and even more importantly as a professing Christian.

I turn 60 years old this coming week.  I have learned to pick my battles.  Life is too short.    I suspect this is not the first time you have done this sort of thing, and will probably not be the last, unless God turns the lights on.

Please do not call or stop next Fall to ask about free apples.

 

Sincerely,

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So we shall see.

My whole point in sharing this sliver of my life with those of you that care to read along, is this…There is more to loving my neighbor as myself than just warm fuzzies.  There is a place for confrontation.  Feels an awful lot like parenting older kids if you ask me.  🙂

Later! DM

It’s not about the money

This is part two of my dealings with an Amish Farmer.

(Make sure you read part one to get the big picture) 😉

I got a call from my Amish farmer friend the first of December letting me know he would stop the next morning to pick up some apple wood.

I went over the details again.

You are going to take 1/3 of the pile of wood.  If I’m not home when you stop, just stick the $20 bill in the shop on the mantle.”

“Yes.  I will.”

Well, he did stop the next day.  I happened to be in the house doing book work and saw him pull in and leave.  Few hours later I went out to the shop to get the money.

I could not find it, so I called and left a message on his phone.  Thirty minutes later, he called back.  I asked him about the money?

There was a pause on the other end of the phone..”Well, I am a little short of cash right now.  Twenty dollars may not seem like a lot of money..but I will get it to you the next time I come to town.”

Me: “When do you think that would be?  Within a few weeks?”

Amish farmer : “Oh, yes.  Within a couple of weeks....”

Well, 4 weeks went by and I never heard from him.  Decided to send him a gentle  reminder with some of my apple orchard stationary…Reminded him it had been a month, and it was past due.

By now, I was starting to battle a low-grade bad attitude.  It was not about the money.  It had to do with integrity.   His word. Feeling like I was being played for a fool.

Keep in mind, I do have a market for apple wood…just have not aggressively pursued it this Winter.  I was getting $1 a pound for it @ a local bar.  Sold over $1000 worth a couple of winters ago.

My desire to be a good neighbor to this new community of Amish was starting to go south.

I was wrestling with thoughts like, “Am I being petty?   Is $20 worth all of the mental vexation I was expending on it?”

Problem was I couldn’t shake it. (The vexation)

There was a program @ our local library last month about the Amish. (Within the past 5 years, over 40 Amish families have moved into our area.)

One of the things I learned was that over every 25 to 30 families there are either deacons or a bishop who takes care of the day today issues of the congregation.  I decided last week I was  not going to just write off the $20, rather I was going to make an effort to contact the local Bishop (or Deacon) and tell my story.  If he blew me off, then I would let it go…but not until.

Last night I sent a Facebook message to a lady I know who drives for the Amish.  Since the Amish do not own cars, they hire out local people when they need a ride somewhere further than they can take their horses.  When I told her what I was thinking, she absolutely encouraged me to get a hold of the current Deacon, gave me his name and number…

This morning he returned my call.

He asked me what I wanted? I told him I had a 30 second story, and was looking for his input.

When I finished  the first thing he said, was there were two or three  people he knew that have pulled stuff like that before, then asked me his name.

I told him.

He said, “He was at the top of my list.  This was probably the 6th time he had gotten a phone call about this man…If it wasn’t wood, it was hay, if it wasn’t hay, it was something else…”

We talked a couple of more minutes.  He thanked me more than once, and said,  “It isn’t about the money.”

“I want to know about this sort of thing.  Thank you for calling.”

My vexation was 100% gone.

He took my name and address and said he would make sure I got my money.

 

View from the orchard floor

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

 

Biopsy Results Are In

Just got off the phone with my urologist.    In the 7 years I’ve been seeing him, I have never talked to him on the phone personally.  It has always been his nurse or one of the girls in scheduling…so when I heard his voice, I knew something was up.

After thirty seconds of small talk, he told me, the biopsy results were back….

No sign of cancer.

What

A

Relief.

Wanted those of you who are a part of my life via this blog to know.  DM