My “Pop’s” Casket
As I write this, it has been just under a year since my dad passed away. Given all that he taught me, I felt it was only appropriate to dedicate a page on my website to his memory and to share the experience of making his casket.
Being of German descent, my dad was a very stoic man who did not easily share his feelings. What he did share with me however, was his love of learning and his desire to know how to do things on his own, with his own hands and tools. Always a tinkerer, I remember working side by side with him, fixing the home dishwasher and making plumbing repairs. He taught me how to paint the house and how to lay brick sidewalks. He also taught me the pleasure of having ones own tools and the feeling of self accomplishment associated with doing my own home repairs.
A visit to my parent’s retirement home on the cape, was always a new adventure to see what new project my dad was undertaking. Although well in to his 90s, my dad still always had some new project he was tinkering with on his workbench. He was always reading and always trying to figure out a better way to do things. Fortunately, up until just a month or so before he passed away, four days after his 97th birthday, his mind remained sharp and he was still planning future projects. I think that is really what kept him alive for so many years.
On the Sunday evening of my dad’s death, the family was gathered back at their assisted living apartment. With my wife’s blessing, I proposed to the family the idea of me building my father’s casket. Much to my surprise, everyone, including my mom, was in favor of the idea. Armed with a few general ideas on how I wanted the casket to look, my wife and I headed back to Maine Monday morning, stopping only in New Hampshire at my wood supplier.
The casket was to be a simple design, constructed of pine. With the guidance and loving support of my wife, we drew up some life sized plans and set to the task at hand. Over the next several days, the casket design evolved. All the while I was working on the casket, I felt my hands were being guided by my dad’s and I knew he would have been proud of the woodworking skills I had developed.
By Thursday morning, the casket was complete, WOODY II was loaded up and the journey back to the cape commenced. At the funeral home, the casket was further adorned by a small metal piece of art, crafted by my older brother Gregor. The following day, the family gathered and we were all able to spend some time saying goodbye to my dad. Covered in a quilt made by my mom and surrounded by some of the things he enjoyed most here on earth (jelly beans, fishing reel, Book of Knowledge), the lid to the casket was screwed shut. My dad went on his final trip to the church he and my mom attended almost daily and then to the cemetery on Tonset Rd., the road they drove to their retirement home for the last 30+ years.
My feeling that making my dad’s casket was the right thing to do, was reinforced at a small gathering at the church following his burial. An elderly gentleman came up to me and asked “Did your dad make his casket?” When I told him, “No, I actually did”, he replied, “Well I thought he had because he always told me that he wanted to be buried in a pine box!”
Well Pops, thanks for all you have taught me and I am happy I could make your final wish come true.
All my love,
March 28th, 2015
PS: I hope to soon be offering simple pine caskets through the Hallowell Casket Company.