As I mentioned, I was over in England gate-crashing a birthday party to which I hadn't formally been invited but which it was quite proper for me to attend. In the way of having a birthday, I accumulated a ton of good wishes, a dozen cards and a few gifts. Dau.I, who knows me all too well, gave me a glossy A4 How-To book by Dale Power "Do-It-Yourself Coffins for Pets and People". The subtitle is A Schiffer book for woodworkers who want to be buried in the work, which is waggishly appropriate. I've long had the intention of making my own coffin but baulk at the idea of single purpose tools. Queequeg the harpooneer in Moby Dick famously used his coffin as a bunk while at sea. As a reader, I've been thinking about how I could make a bookcase about 180cm tall and as wide as a man's shoulders where the shelves could be turned at right-angles to make the elements of the lid of a coffin. No idea what would happen to the books after they were dumped from their home - but that won't be my probby, will it? The illustration is one of dozens which show-and-tell you how to complete the task of making a robust wooden box of a particular characteristic shape. Although the book also points out that this is largely conventional rather than essential for function and that a right-angled box is easier for beginners and perfectly fit-for-purpose. The pic shows the stage of lining the box with cotton-batting before stapling over the satin (or tweed woven from your own sheep) lining, so that corpse at least looks comfortable.
At the bday party, I was chatting with the local undertaker who is a bit of a card. For his 60th a few years ago, he received his guests from his own coffin, so there's another alternative usage idea to ponder. I was regaling the company with a story of a pal of mine who buried her husband, possibly legally, in the orchard of their home. She had two pieces of advice:
a) if you're using a shroud rather than a coffin, you need to assemble the ensemble on a plank because corpses tend to be bendy in the middle but with the plank two people can do all the required hefting.
b) you need a lot of cotton wool to stuff the orifices
"Not always but often" added the undertaker. On the (il)legality of DIY burials in Ireland, my friend's advice to people who want to follow her example is to do it but do it discretely so that The Man doesn't feel obliged to respond. "It's far more trouble, physically and bureaucratically, to exhume a body than to inhume it".
It won't be my probby to deliver the eulogy at the departure ceremony either. Nevertheless, I picked up an interesting post in Esquire on the matter, which seems to say sensible things about why you might want to do such a thing; or, if asked to do so, how you can make a better fist of it. Check out the comments as well. I've written in March about other end-of-life issues, in particular Advanced Healthcare Directives to help your rellies make the key life-support decisions when the time comes.