A tisket, a tasket, a homemade casket

My mother is a major tightwad. Especially when it comes to things that are death and burial-related. It’s all a rip-off as far as she’s concerned. Thus we had this conversation a while ago (I swear this is absolutely true).

Mom: “When I die I want to be buried in a plain plywood box.”

Me: “I’m pretty sure they don’t sell those at the mortuary.”

Mom: “well, then you can just make one.”

Me: “so I’m supposed to go straight from your deathbed to Home Depot to pick up some wood to make you a coffin? Not only do I not know how to build coffins, I don’t think I’ll really be in the mood.”

Mom: (after some thought) “I could make one now!”

Me: “And where are you going to keep this casket? You live in a one bedroom apartment.”

Mom: “You could keep it at your house!”

Me: “uhhhh”

Mom: (voice is starting to get very excited) “I’ll add some temporary shelves and we’ll just say it’s a bookcase! You can add the lid later!”

Me: “uhhhh”

Mom: “Hey, you know what would be really nice? If you covered it with pictures of the family! Like a giant collage!”
Me: “uhhhh”

Mom: “And did I mention that I don’t want to be buried in a cemetery?”

Me: “I am not burying you in my backyard so don’t even ask.”

The woman is as hearty as can be so we’re not anticipating death for at least twenty or thirty years. I’m guessing we’ll have plenty of time to mull her plans over.

| Filed under Bad Things, Funny

33 thoughts on “A tisket, a tasket, a homemade casket

  1. I'm not even sure I should post this.

    My husband is gifted with wood working… so MY mother has requested he make her plain pine box NOW, so that she can use it as a coffee table in her living room.

    I'm pulling rank on this one–not even up for discussion. We'll spring for the casket if we have to when the time comes.

  2. Oh Jennie, thank you! Today, I've been in desperate need of a good laugh.

    And Jenny with a y, thank you too. Icing on the cake.

  3. That's just funny. And if your mom wants a home made one, she needs to move to my small town. The guy across the street from my parents often makes coffins and the lady across the creek from my house lines them.

    OH and I bought Peanut Butter today. And a year's supply of Ghiradelli Chocolate chips at $2 a bag. Yip yip!

  4. This is too funny! Your mom sounds like quite the character! It could be a new trend like those boat/shelf units everyone was so hot for.

  5. Ha! That's pretty funny! At least your mom wants a container to be put in. My mom just said to throw her in the trash when she dies. No lie.

  6. I think it is good to have humor in these topics – but an underlying seriousness to it all.

    I appreciate that your mother's have been willing to talk about before it becomes necessary – you at least know that if you decide to blow your inheritance on a fancy coffin, it will be for your benefit – not hers – so, to speak. (LOL)

    As my sister and I had to make all the funeral arrangements when my father died because our mother was too ill to handle it, I assure you are not really going to want to have to deal with the whole coffin thing then.

    I don't want my kids to have to deal with I had to for my dad.

    My husband and I have already instructed our children, we are to be cremated. No coffin, zip, nada – properly dispose of the ashes – we are not there. Have whatever service/memorial that will be meaningful to them for closure but don't worry about me then.

    My mother, even with her terminal illness, refused to talk about what she wanted for her funeral – so my sister and I did what we wanted. Had a big party and served all my mother's famous desserts and shared photos, and funny stories.

    Best of luck on how this plays out.

    If I were going to have a coffin, I could see using it now for furniture. If you google it, you should find there are already people producing them.

    thanks for the chuckle.

  7. My dad has a friend who is blessed with woodworking skills. He has already built his casket. It is inscribed with the words "casket built by contents." true story.

  8. When my aunt became seriously ill my husband and I were her only relatives. We tried to discuss her funeral arrangements with her but she would only say cremate me! When we asked where she wanted her ashes placed she would not tell us. I tried every place I could think of-but no choice.
    Finally, exasperated, I asked what about our back garden? She loved to sit there and watch the koi pond-the birds & squirrels playing around the area. Much to my surprise she replied YES!
    When she passed that is exactly what we did-planting a beautiful Japanese flowering cherry over her. It is the most beautiful tree in the garden!
    What better memorial to a loved one? A living thing of beauty.

  9. I guess now would be a good time to tell you that (our) Mom already has asked me to do this for her (several times), and though I said I wouldn't do it now, I agreed to do it when she dies. (I don't know why she'd even ask you, after knowing that I'm the only kid in the family who is an avid woodworker.)

    Some nice 15-ply baltic-birch faced plywood, stained mahogany. Lined with the brightest turquiose and magenta satin I can find. It'll be the best $150 coffin around.

  10. Hi I'm new to your blog…came over just now from Hooked On Houses. This is the funniest thing I've heard all week….mostly because I think along the same lines as your mom does! I'm 49. I'll say to my husband "Okay, there should be large dishes of various chocolates set out at the "party" afterwards, and please tell people to wear happy colors to the service." And leaving COSTCO, as we stroll past the special order area with all our loot stacked high in the cart I have been known to voice my opinion that he should purchase the most simple of caskets as I will be in heaven, and what a waste of money! It's a very healthy mind that jokes about such things. I'll be back to visit again soon, but I can't imagine you can top today's post. Thanks for the chuckle. : )

  11. Your mother's wishes are practical and wise. They truly deserve to be honored. Burial in a plain pine box or weaved basket is also a very ecologically responsible option, particularly if she chooses to be buried in a green manor. Although it may seem humorous, there is a significant move toward green burials in the U.S. Patterns for make-it-yourself caskets (some can actually be used as bookselves) are available. Very simple cardboard boxes are also available and can be beautifully decorated by family and friends – children especially find this to be theraputic. A bit of internet fishing will reveal a number of options. One of the best websites is http://www.thresholdsoflife.org. Nora Cedarwing Young is a death midwife and one of the foremost authorities on green burials. I have heard her speak and, no matter what ones' spiritual beliefs, her expertise is very comprehensive and helpful. Her website helps one put death in a healthy perspective. If your mother truly wants this kind of burial, she should do the research and prepare a document with her specific instructions. Many traditional cemetaries are opening green burial areas that have a very natural setting. Additionally, more dedicated green cemetaries are opening across the country. Although the movement is still small, it is growing. This is a return to a simpler, more traditional approach to death rather than the sterile impersonal separation of modern America. Take this opportunity to learn about these options with your mother so you understand her decisions and are prepared to support them.

  12. As the crazy mother in question, I really enjoyed everyone's comments! But it never ceases to amaze me how Jennie and I can have one conversation and remember it two different ways.

    I'd rather send all my children and grandchildren on a Disney Cruise than blow $10 K on a stupid casket. Wouldn't you rather have a cruise? Call it "THE LORIE N. DAVIS FUN-TIME MEMORIAL CRUISE!"

    And Lucky You, Jennie, Ben DID say he would make my casket. I certainly know YOU are no woodworker, even with plywood and screws. But I think the photo collage idea would be a lot more fun than stain for the outside.

  13. L – Funny you should mention a disney vacation. When my mother passed almost 20 years ago, my children were from 4-15 years of age. Mother requested a very simple, but lovely burial. My husband and I had never been able to take the children on an extensive vacation, so when her will was settled, we put some of the money towards a two week Florida vacation. We visited family, the beach, Disney World, Busch Gardens, etc. My mother would have enjoyed knowing that we were having a special family time because of her.

  14. Rindercella – that is wonderful! Your dad must have a great sense of humor! What a laugh people will get when they see that.

  15. I, too, just found your wonderful blog, courtesy of Hooked on Houses and this entry is hysterical! I am only in my early 40s but very crafty and I can see myself planning a glittered, decoupaged casket for myself!! My family knows that if anything in the house doesn't move, it gets covered in patterned paper and ModPodge—why not a casket??
    Great blog….I'll be following!

  16. Ben, don't even bother with the mahogany stain. Plain, unpainted plywood is SO much more "Mom." You could throw on some duct tape or wrapping paper if you wanted to make it really authentic, though.

    1. Dear Mom, I’m behind you 100% but I can’t get any takers so it looks like I’ll have to build my own and use it as a coffee table – or blanket box! If I do a good enough job, everyone ought to see it. You are a gal after my own heart.
      And, I love the idea of giving the family money to have fun (this do in remembrance of me).

  17. I watched a very interesting documentary about dying and funerals on PBS. It showed many alternatives. One family in Texas makes their own coffins and when the dad was quite ill and going to be dying soon he helped his sons make his own coffin – they seared their cattle brands on the coffin. Several people on the show had cardboard coffins that they had all their friends write messages of love. Some had modge podged roses and pretty pictures all over it. A woman in my ward died after a 20 year battle with breast cancer. She was buried like the next day in a cardboard casket and then her funeral/memorial was later that week. Another teenage boy in my ward that died had the pine box casket (they do make them). It's what I've told my family I want to although I have to admit when they wheeled his coffin into the chapel the emotion of his untimely death and the starkness of the coffin choked me up! It was a very spiritual and humble funeral.
    One thing that pbs show made me realize is to embrace death and dying – to not fear it. The show encouraged you to keep the deceased family member in your home for a while to really say goodbye – don't call the coroner immediately – let that spirit stay near. There are trained people that are what you could call a death midwife. They help the ill person and the family deal with the transition. They show you how to fix the body up so it will look more natural while you keep it in your home. One of these trained people ended up losing her daughter in a horrible accident. Her daughter died in the hospital. She took her home, made her look beautiful and placed her on her bed. Had a "viewing" or goodbye party where her school friends, and family could come and see her looking beautiful and say goodbye… it was intense! Anyways sorry for the long response.

  18. OK, that is SO your mother! I love it! I can just hear you two having this conversation and wish I had been there to see it live. I just love Lorie.

  19. This is just like my mom. My mother has a binder with instructions for her funeral. She wants a pine box, no embalming, buried like 48 hours after her death. She wants my husband to sing at her funeral and my brother in-law to give the eulogy.

    One of my mom's friends was dying of cancer and at the graveside, she had hired a brass band before her death to play "When the Saints Go Marching In" after she was lowered into the ground.

  20. Too funny and I Love that “L” put in her own thoughts 🙂

    My husband and I talk about death all the time, mainly to say… DON’T ever spend our entire life savings on a casket… Burn me and toss my ashes… in a nutshell. If I want because my husband is a vet I can have him buried by the military but he doesn’t want all of the fanfare…

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