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Sharon Hunter - September 2021

So You Want to Build A Casket

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I have always been in awe of those who are handy with a hammer and nail. Be it building a deck or crafting a cabinet, watching timber transform to something functional and useful is a wonder. This talent sadly eluded my family. My father isn’t remotely handy, and given the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, nor are my brothers, my sister, or me.

I recall my dad’s project to build a kennel for the soon to arrive family puppy. For weeks the sound of hammering filled after work and weekend hours, finally producing a kennel the size to hold a small bear. The dog, hating the massive volume, elected to live indoors. I think the kennel was eventually repurposed as a hen house for my sisters growing family of bantams.

For those who are blessed with the skills, building a casket for someone you love is possibly one of the final tangible acts they can do. Every piece of timber and adornment chosen with thought and in tribute, a final safe haven lovingly crafted by hand.

There are many things about a funeral that people don’t realize they can take care of themselves, and building a casket is one of them. Local laws require that caskets for burial meet certain standards, and as long as your homemade casket meets the necessary criteria, you can certainly build your own for the burial of yourself or a loved one. A quick internet search delivers thousands of how-to results, with easy to follow plans and helpful videos. It won’t necessarily be cheaper than modestly priced mass produced caskets, but that’s not why you’re doing it is it...

When Rich died suddenly while holidaying overseas, his friends had ample time to think about his funeral during the time it took for his body to be returned home. One of life’s adventurers, Rich was a one of kind guy and his friends wanted to honour a life cut tragically short with a funeral service like no other. It would begin with building his casket. Rich’s friends gathered tools and timber, and with a detailed and helpful design, headed to a house perched above the crashing surf beach where they’d spent so much time together. Across the weekend they built Rich’s casket. Sometimes they played music, other times they worked in silence. At night they talked of life with Rich. No adventure had been too wild. The guy had really lived.

On the day of the funeral, Rich’s casket was loaded into the van he’d driven countless miles searching for the perfect surf break. His friends drove him to where everyone waited in an open field beneath a bright blue sky. Gathered around Rich’s hand crafted casket, eyes cast upwards, they watched as a dozen parachutes filled the sky, honoring Rich.

"For those who are blessed with the skills, building a casket for someone you love is possibly one of the final tangible acts they can do."

When the time came that Duane Moyle would begin building his father’s casket there was someone on hand to give a final stamp of approval – his Dad. When no more could be done to stave off his prostate cancer, and the family began to make plans for the funeral they would ultimately face, Jack asked his son to make his casket. In the workshop under the house Duane would spend 9 weeks crafting the casket that would carry his father.

Jack Moyle was a drummer, and music was a big part of his life. He taught local kids to play drums, and loved to jam with friends in church bands. With this as his inspiration, Duane crafted a casket in red and silver, the colours of his Dad’s drum kit. On the top, using the skills he’d been learning in hand lettered sign making, he designed a monogrammed crest representing all the elements of Jack's life, a rose at the centre for his wife. One side of the casket carried his Dad’s name. The other said “keep looking up”, his favourite saying.

Making the casket was a journey in acceptance and letting go for Duane, a process in acknowledging that his Dad’s life was coming to an end. In some small way, it helped him prepare. When more than 500 people arrived to pay tribute at Jack's funeral service, they smiled to see his drum kit casket that so perfectly captured the man. They’re still listening to Jack's 60’s and 70’s rock playlist.

In the final weeks Duane was able to show his Dad photos of the finished casket.

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