From the Art of Manliness Eulogy for Alex:
Editor’s note: Ten days after his son, Alex, drove off a bridge and was killed in a car accident, Reverend William Sloane Coffin delivered the following sermon to his congregation at Riverside Church in New York City.
I was first introduced to this sermon years ago in a college communications course, and I have thought of it with surprising regularity ever since. Its presence in my mind has been so frequent, especially recently after the loss of a dear friend, that I finally decided to share it here. Not because our diverse readership will agree with all of its theological underpinnings, but because I think it offers wise advice on what to say (and not say) when someone dies tragically, a poignant window on the human experience, and a lesson in the art of effective rhetoric (hence why we were discussing it in a communications class). It’s just one of those things I think is worth a read by all. Actually, it’s even more worth a listen; it’s considerably more powerful in the oral form in which it was delivered, and the audio can be accessed here (1/23/1983)
As almost all of you know, a week ago last Monday night, driving in a terrible storm, my son — Alexander — who to his friends was a real day-brightener, and to his family “fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky” — my twenty-four-year-old Alexander, who enjoyed beating his old man at every game and in every race, beat his father to the grave.
Among the healing flood of letters that followed his death was one carrying this wonderful quote from the end of Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”: “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.”
My own broken heart is mending, and largely thanks to so many of you, my dear parishioners; for if in the last week I have relearned one lesson, it is that love not only begets love, it transmits strength......
This is one of the most beautiful eulogies I have ever read.
Filip Kwasny, a dying seven-year-old schoolboy is asking the public to help him fulfill his final wish - to be buried with his mother so she can look after him in heaven. He made the wish from his bed in London's Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital where chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant have failed to cure his leukemia and where he receives only palliative care to make him comfortable as his short life comes to an end.
Kind-hearted strangers have been donating to help him be buried in the same coffin as his mother, who he lost to cancer when he was two. Barely able to speak, he yesterday sent a personal thank you from his bed on the hospital's Fox Ward, saying: 'Thanks for helping make my wish come true.'
His father, Piotr Kwasny, 40, is desperate to raise £6,500 to raise his wife's coffin which has been underground for five years and re-bury her with their son. 'He says that I'm his angel that is looking after him here and that his mum will look after him when he is in heaven,' Piotr explained from his son's hospital bed. 'I don't know how well he remembers his mother as he was so young when she passed away, but he has visited her grave when he was well enough to speak to her.
Druksland, a cartographic display capturing the life story of artist Michael Druk.
The Israeli artist Michael Druks mapped Druksland, a cartographic display capturing his life story. Outlining the shape of his head, Druks’ conceptual map incorporates features you would see on a topographical map, including coordinates, bodies of water, and a map legend. Yet the map also serves as an unconventional self-portrait, the coordinates corresponding to major life events, significant people, and important institutions. Druks shows how the contours of a face could be a more complex terrain than any geology on Earth....
Just like a topographical map, the lines and graduated hues show elevation, while the blue represents bodies of water and the brown indicates mountain ranges. “The eyes are like a lake,” Druks says. “The lips are a bit like a river. The blue can represent either air or water aiming either up or down—outside or inside.”
An assortment of words and phrases are scattered across his face and head, referencing influential teachers, addresses of apartments, cities, names of family members, friends, schools, galleries, and owners. He also has points with the names of fellow artists, whom Druks thought were important contributors and detractors of the Israeli art scene
Operation London Bridge: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death
In the plans that exist for the death of the Queen – and there are many versions, held by Buckingham Palace, the government and the BBC – most envisage that she will die after a short illness. Her family and doctors will be there....
Her eyes will be closed and Charles will be king. His siblings will kiss his hands. The first official to deal with the news will be Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, a former diplomat who was given a second knighthood in 2014, in part for planning her succession.
For a time, she will be gone without our knowing it. The information will travel like the compressional wave ahead of an earthquake, detectable only by special equipment. Governors general, ambassadors and prime ministers will learn first. Cupboards will be opened in search of black armbands, three-and-a-quarter inches wide, to be worn on the left arm.
When the Queen dies, the announcement will go out as a newsflash to the Press Association and the rest of the world’s media simultaneously. At the same instant, a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace, cross the dull pink gravel and pin a black-edged notice to the gates. While he does this, the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text on a dark background.
Buckingham Palace, meanwhile, has a policy of not commenting on funeral arrangements for members of the royal family.
And yet this taboo, like much to do with the monarchy, is not entirely rational, and masks a parallel reality. The next great rupture in Britain’s national life has, in fact, been planned to the minute. It involves matters of major public importance, will be paid for by us, and is definitely going to happen......
Coping with the way these events fall is the next great challenge of the House of Windsor, the last European royal family to practise coronations and to persist – with the complicity of a willing public – in the magic of the whole enterprise. That is why the planning for the Queen’s death and its ceremonial aftermath is so extensive. Succession is part of the job. It is an opportunity for order to be affirmed. Queen Victoria had written down the contents of her coffin by 1875. The Queen Mother’s funeral was rehearsed for 22 years. Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, prepared a winter and a summer menu for his funeral lunch. London Bridge is the Queen’s exit plan. “It’s history,” as one of her courtiers said. It will be 10 days of sorrow and spectacle in which, rather like the dazzling mirror of the monarchy itself, we will revel in who we were and avoid the question of what we have become.
The first plans for London Bridge date back to the 1960s, before being refined in detail at the turn of the century. Since then, there have been meetings two or three times a year for the various actors involved (around a dozen government departments, the police, army, broadcasters and the Royal Parks) in Church House, Westminster, the Palace, or elsewhere in Whitehall. Participants described them to me as deeply civil and methodical. “Everyone around the world is looking to us to do this again perfectly,” said one, “and we will.”
Grandfather Peter Norton, 79, was not wearing a helmet when he fell from a bike. He was testing out the gears inside a Halfords branch in St Austell, Cornwall. He initially appeared unharmed and returned home for a lie down. Several hours later he became unresponsive and never regained consciousness. The cause of death given was a brain hemorrhage as a result of the fall and the traumatic injury to his brain.
The bridge had been closed to traffic and was under construction when it collapsed onto the highway below
It fell onto a car, crushing it, killing Emidio "Mimmo" Diomedi, 60, and his wife Antonella Viviani, 54, and injuring three construction workers.
Max Muessig, 20, and his girlfriend Maggie Potter, 23, were driving to his mother's house in Midland, Michigan on Wednesday when a tree hit their car. The couple, described as 'soulmates' by Potter's father, died instantly. The two met while attending the University of Vermont. Potter, who graduated last year and lives in Boston, was visiting Muessig for his college spring break.
Rescue teams used chainsaws to cut through the fallen tree and free those trapped underneath. Twenty-two others were injured and are being treated at local hospitals.
Wanda Holbrook, 57, from Grand Rapids in Michigan, was working on the production line when a robotic arm took her by surprise by entering the section in which she was stationed. The arm hit and crushed her head against a hitch assembly it was working on. Her widower is suing the manufacturers.
Fredzania Thompson, a pregnant aspiring model was killed by a freight train after she became stuck between two railroad tracks while posing for a photo shoot. She was in the middle of a modeling shoot on the tracks when a train approached. The teen ended up stuck when she moved onto another track where another train was coming. The young model was engaged and would have turned 20 on Monday.
The Patriot Guard Riders is an organization whose members attend the funerals of the military, firefighters, and police at the invitation of a decedent's family. The group forms an honor guard at military burials, helps protect mourners from harassment and fills out the ranks at burials of indigent and homeless veterans. In addition to attending funerals, the group also greets troops returning from overseas at homecoming celebrations and performs volunteer work for veteran's organizations such as Veterans Homes.
With a military career that included seven tours of duty in both Afghanistan and Iraq, USMC Staff Sgt. Jonathan Turner served the United States for 17 years as a Marine. But when Turner passed away in California due to combat-related issues, his mother — who still lives in the Turners' hometown of College Park, Georgia — couldn't afford the cost of traveling to the west coast to retrieve his ashes.Instead, Turner's ashes would be shipped home.
That didn't sit well with Patriot Guard riders, so they stepped up by creating a caravan and personally escorting Turner's remains all the way across the country. It was an operation that involved hundreds of volunteers and thousands of miles ridden...."We didn't want him to go home in a Fed Ex box."
Bill Conklin, a hospice patient in Boise had one last wish of hearing the roar of a Harley Davidson, one last time.
Conklin told his nurse a while back about his wish, who helped get the ball rolling. "Guess what?" asked Teri Jordan, Conklin's nurse. "Your wish has come true."
Surrounding his home were about 50 Harleys and bikers ready to unleash the sound Conklin was waiting for. The sound filled the entire block while excitement filled Conklin's body and heart. "My feet are numb, my hands are numb, and my back is burning like fire," he said. To us, it may just be a sound, but to him, it was the best medicine he could get. ...
Conklin says the bikes brought back many great memories. He was so appreciative of the display, Conklin made it an important duty of his to shake every hand he could get to, saying thanks before the bikers took off.
A Theatrical Rebuttal to the Farce of ‘Dignicide’ - Terry Teachout in the Wall Street Journal
The title and subject are dark, but British theatergoers don’t seem to care. “Assisted Suicide” has received rave reviews since it was first shown last year, and when I saw it in January a packed house gave it a standing ovation. That’s all the more remarkable given the musical’s anti-euthanasia message, at a time when voters on both sides of the Atlantic are making their peace with the practice.
The musical’s creator, Liz Carr, ... suffers from a genetic disorder that prevents her from extending her muscles, among other impairments. Such people watch the assisted-suicide movement’s recent strides and wonder what it all means for their future in societies where the government is the main, often the sole, health-care provider.
Growing up with a severe disability, Ms. Carr recalls, “life was bleak.” She excelled at academics, but no amount of therapy seemed to improve her physical ability. She was never consciously suicidal, “but I didn’t see a future or an escape. I couldn’t see a point. So in that sense I’ve been to very dark places.” She pressed on, however, and now enjoys national prominence as an actress and disability activist.
Ms. Carr, who was born in 1972, considers herself lucky that euthanasia wasn’t on the cultural radar when she was young. “Assisted suicide has become part of the narrative of death, of illness, of disability,” she says. That was the work of euthanasia proponents, who knew that “it takes 15 to 20 years to get social support and to get the culture to change—then you pass the law.”
“We’ve lost the word ‘dignity’ to the concept of ‘death with dignity,’ ” says Ms. Carr. The truth, she insists, is that “your state of health, mental or physical, has no bearing on your dignity.” If voters and lawmakers take the view that dignity derives from good health and ability, then all sorts of weak and vulnerable people can be discarded.
The death-with-dignity case is often based not on the lived experience of people with disabilities, but on the subjective judgments of others. Her musical thus provides a necessary cultural corrective: I’m disabled, but who are you to say I lack dignity? All this talk of “death with dignity” also provides a convenient alibi for the failure to care for people who are disabled, ill or even lonely.
“Legalizing euthanasia doesn’t empower you. It empowers doctors.” In the context of the modern welfare state, that means empowering agents of the government. Legalization hides a dramatic action—the taking of life—behind the veil of the patient-doctor relationship, with all the power imbalances inherent in it.
People can always commit suicide, she says, but to give the state the power to facilitate it is to invite pressure on people like her: “How do we decide who qualifies? Why do we say that being disabled or ill—why is that OK justification, but being in anguish because you’ve been dumped by your boyfriend, or lost a child, isn’t?”
How to Find Meaning in the Face of Death by Emily Esfahani Smith, adapted from her book, The Power of Meaning
The psychiatrist William Breitbart lives at the edge of life and death. As chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Breitbart specializes in end-of-life care for terminally ill cancer patients. For many of his patients, the most pressing question isn’t when they’ll die or how painful death will be. Rather, it’s what makes life meaningful. They are in search of a meaning that cannot be destroyed by death.
Breitbart has spent the better part of his career trying to answer that question. His ground-breaking research shows that while the specter of death often leads people to conclude that their lives are meaningless, it can also be a catalyst for them to work out, as they never have before, the meaning of their lives.
When people believe their lives are meaningful, according to psychologists, it’s because three conditions have been satisfied: They feel their existence is valued by others; they are driven by a sense of purpose, or important life goals; and they understand their lives as coherent and integrated. Psychologists and philosophers say that the path to meaning lies in connecting and contributing to something that is bigger than the self, like family, country, or God.
As Breitbart heard more stories of assisted suicide, he began to wonder what specifically was driving the terminally ill to give up on life. The assumption had been that the ill chose to end their lives because they were in terrible pain. But Breitbart and his colleagues found that wasn’t always the case. Instead, those who desired a hastened death reported feelings of meaninglessness, depression, and hopelessness. When Breitbart asked patients why they wanted a prescription for assisted suicide, many said it was because they had lost meaning in life. Unlike clinical depression, which has a specific set of diagnosable symptoms, meaninglessness was more of an “existential concern,” Breitbart said—a belief that one’s life has little value or purpose and is, therefore, not worth living.
Breitbart became convinced that if he could help patients build meaning, he could decrease their suicidal thoughts and make their lives worth living even to the very end. He developed an eight-session group therapy program where six to eight cancer patients come together in a counseling workshop. Each session, in one way or another, helps build meaning.
In the final session, the patients reflect on the part of them that will go on living even after they are dead—their legacy. That could be their soul, or it could be something they helped to create that will continue to exist—their children, a work of art, or an organization. ....
Breitbart performed three randomized, controlled experiments on the meaning-centered psychotherapy. When he analyzed the results with his colleagues, Breitbart saw the therapy had been transformative. By the end of the eight sessions, the patients’ attitudes toward life and death had changed. They were less hopeless and anxious about the prospect of death than they were before they began the program. They no longer wanted to die. Their spiritual wellbeing improved. They reported a higher quality of life. And, of course, they found life to be more meaningful. These effects not only persisted over time—they actually got stronger. When Breitbart followed up with one group of patients two months later, he found that their reports of meaning and spiritual wellbeing had increased, while their feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and desire for death had decreased.
The time between diagnosis and death, Breitbart has found, presents an opportunity for “extraordinary growth.” One woman, for example, was initially devastated by her diagnosis of colon cancer—but after enrolling in the therapy program, she realized, “I didn’t have to work so hard to find the meaning of life. It was being handed to me everywhere I looked.” And that realization ultimately brought her—and Breitbart’s other patients—some measure of peace and consolation as they faced life’s final challenge.
Camlyn Lee had just been called back for his dentist appointment when a Mercedes SUV plowed through the waiting room area of Vital Smiles in Midfield, Alabama, on Thursday morning. Lee, a kindergarten student at Central Park Elementary School, was killed in front of his grandmother and teenage brother after the driver attempted to park in front of the office.
Medics said the 24-year-old, named as Rachna, had died of a lung infection. Her husband and friends then began to cremate her hours later in Uttar Pradesh. Reports say that somebody then dragged the woman off the funeral pyre, believing her to be still alive. She showed no signs of life thereafter but a post-mortem examination showed charred particles in her windpipe and lungs, say police, which would not have been present if she had not been breathing. Two doctors working together said the cause of death was not lung infection but in fact 'shock caused by being burnt alive'.
The man's body was only discovered six months later when the landlord entered the flat to find out why the rent had not been paid. The man's lowly death was revealed by a member of the cleaning team, who said his company had been hired to remove the magazines discreetly in a way that would not be noticed by neighbors and the man's family to save them from the shame. He said that the dead man, a 50-year-old former carmaker identified only by the name Joji, had died buried underneath under a pile of the pornographic magazines. It was unclear if he had suffered a heart attack and fallen into the stacks of magazines which had then fallen on top of him, or whether he had been crushed by the mass of paper.
A 53-year-old man had been renovating his cottage alon when he stopped answering his phone. His family, growing worried, called the police, who showed up at the man's door. Inside, they found his corpse lying between two metal sawhorses, badly burned. But there was no evidence of fire anywhere else in the house, and no sign of an electrical malfunction, leading investigators to wonder whether the man had been burned elsewhere and then hidden in the cottage. But a closer look indicated that this death was much more unusual. The case is detailed in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology.
Seventy percent of the man's body was covered in first-, second-, and third-degree burns. Taking a look around at the steel beams that protruded from the central area of the cottage to the outside of the house, and the metal tools scattered about the man, the investigators put two and two together. These burns weren't caused by fire. Instead, a lightning bolt must have travelled down the beams, arcing across the metal tools. The electricity entered the man's body through his left foot, and exited through his right thumb after passing through his heart. Meteorologists confirmed a thunderstorm had passed through the area a few hours earlier, right around the estimated time of death..
A 23-year-old man died after chugging a bottle of tequila during a friendly wager at a Dominican nightclub. He won $630 but just minutes later he lost his life.The cause of death was listed as alcohol intoxication by the medical examiner. The tragic incident happened earlier this week in the city La Romana, in eastern Dominican Republic, and it was all captured on video by a cell phone camera.
This is part of an intermittent series to emphasize that death can come to anyone unexpectedly. No one woke up and thought that this would be their last day alive.
I do not mean to make light of the unspeakable loss that their families and friends experience. May they all rest in peace.
This is a very disturbing story, but hats off to local historian Catherine Corliss whose work lead to an inquiry and the discovery of the mass graves.
A mass grave containing the remains of babies and young children has been discovered at a former Catholic home for unmarried mothers and their children in Ireland, an official report revealed today.The remains were found in a disused sewer during excavations at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway. The ages of the dead ranged from 35 foetal weeks to three years old and were mostly buried in the 1950s.
The inquiry was launched after local historian Catherine Corless said there was evidence of an unmarked graveyard at the home, where records showed almost 800 children died between 1925 and 1961. However, there was a burial record for just one child....Ms Corless also revealed that nine mothers died in the home during its existence. Burial records only existed for four of the women.
The inquiry was established to investigate 14 mother and baby homes where unmarried mothers and their babies were placed in order to avoid the social stigma in what was then a deeply Catholic country. The Commission said it was shocked by the discovery and is continuing its investigation into who was responsible for the disposal of human remains in this way. The mother and baby home era is one of the last dark secrets of Catholic run Ireland.
The government's commissioner for children, Katherine Zappone said: 'It was not unexpected as there were claims about human remains on the site over the last number of years. 'Up to now we had rumours. Now we have confirmation that the remains are there and that they date back to the time of the mother-and-baby home, which operated in Tuam from 1925 to 1961.
The Bon Secours Sisters order of nuns, which ran the home until its closure, said in a statement that all its records, including of potential burials, had been handed to state authorities in 1961.
May all these poor babies be properly buried and rest in peace.
Kate Greene, from Somerset, died of cancer in 2010 at the age of 38. She left behind husband St John and two young sons, Reef and Finn. Her checklist for them included having boys roller skate in a museum. Her story, based on St John's book, is now a new movie, Mum's List
The story of Kate Greene's courageous battle with cancer and the moving 100-strong list of hopes, ambitions and instructions that she wrote for her husband and sons days before she died has captured the public imagination, selling more than 100,000 copies in two just two months.
Four years on, and the story has grown into the new film starring Emilia Fox, and Rafe Spall as St John battles to build a new life without her...As he watches the scene unfold through the gloom of a cinema screening room, St John Greene's eyes fill with tears. There, in the opening sequence of a major new film, is his late wife Kate, played with unbearable realism by actress Emilia Fox.
'I bawled my eyes out when I saw the film for the first time,' he admits today. 'She really did Kate proud. She captured her exactly. That smile. Her exuberance. The passionate, all-consuming love for our kids. It was like watching Kate return to life.'
Mum's List ....ranged from the eminently sensible to the thrilling: 'Try not to let them go into the Forces; always kiss the boys goodbye and good night; buy a family dining table so you can have meals together.' Item by item, she set down her hopes for her children's future.There were requests for skiing and boating; trips to see the Northern Lights and international sports fixtures; camping, caravanning and picnics in favorite places. And, poignantly, a request her husband find a new wife to help bring up her boys.
In the intervening years St John and his sons have fulfilled many of Kate's wishes, although not yet all. 'One important one was to have the boys roller skate in a museum, hilariously something they always wanted to do,' he says. 'To my astonishment the Natural History Museum happily agreed to close for a bit and let us do just that. That was one of the most fun.....
Mindful that one of Kate's hopes was that he find another woman to help provide a stable family for their sons, he has a new partner. 'We are a family again,' he says. 'But Kate will be forever in our lives.'
The Yale University President buried in full samurai costume. Grave of Arthur Twining Hadley
A prominent economist and Yale’s 13th president, Arthur Twining Hadley was a New Haven local who attended Yale University and was a member of the 1876 delegation of Skull and Bones. He later taught economics at the school, worked as a railroad expert for President Taft, and served as Yale’s president from 1899 to 1921. In 1930, Hadley died of pneumonia while visiting Japan, and his body was shipped back to New Haven. When the coffin was opened to verify Hadley’s identity, inspectors found that he had been given a long gold robe, breastplate, helmet, and samurai sword. He was then buried at Grove Street Cemetery, which is located on Yale’s campus.
The inventor of the iconic Pringles can was so proud of his invention he was buried in one. Grave of Fredric J. Baur.
Fredric John Baur may not be a household name, but he did invent something almost universally recognizable: the Pringles can. Having secured the patent for the famous tubular container for the distinctively stacked potato chips, Baur left a rather unusual request in his will. He asked that his ashes be buried in a Pringles can.
...Passing away at the age of 89, it was left to his children to act out his peculiar final wish. In a 2008 interview with Time, eldest son Larry described how they stopped at a Walgreens on their way to the funeral home to buy a can of Pringles. They decided on the classic original flavor to send their father off in style.
The Paste Eater's Grave in Goldfield, Nevada.
As the story goes, a vagrant wandering the streets of Goldfield in 1908 was rummaging through the trash outside the local library, looking for something to eat. The best sustenance he came across was a jar of book paste. He would have found the paste surprisingly sweet, because in addition to flour and water, it was 60% alum. Unfortunately, the concentration was deadly. When the townspeople found the deceased drifter, he was buried in Pioneer Cemetery, which was little more than a dirt patch. The grave was topped with a headstone that stated what little they knew about him. It reads, “UNKNOWN MAN DIED EATING LIBRARY PASTE JULY 14 1908.”
Jihadists reportedly stashed thousands of euros in cash that they planned to use to buy Kalashnikovs and ammunition between gravestones at an iconic Paris cemetery.... Anti-terror officers discovered the stash of cash after an officer managed to infiltrate an ISIS-linked cell by posing as a jihadi. It is believed more than 13,000 euros has been recovered from the Montparnasse cemetery in the French capital's 14th arrondissement that had been hidden between a crack in one of the graves.
Colma, The Town of The Dead, many thousands exiled from San Francisco
South of San Francisco, near Daly City, lies the small town of Colma where the dead outnumbers the living by a thousand to one. It’s less than 2 square miles in size, but crammed within it are as many as 17 cemeteries where rest the bodies of more than 1.5 million souls.
Nearly all of the dead were once proud residents of San Francisco, both during their lifetime and after. But at the turn of the last century, the city passed an ordinance that banished all dead from within city limits. The government argued that cemeteries spread disease, but the true motive for the eviction was the rising value of real estate —land in San Francisco was too precious to waste on dead people.
Hundreds of thousands of dead bodies were dug up and transported to vacant lands south of the city and the town of Colma began to take shape. For the better part of the century, Colma’s residents were mainly gravediggers, flower growers and monument makers. It was only after the 1980s, that other types of people and businesses began settling next to the dead. Today, the little town has many thriving businesses, including car dealerships and shopping centers. In recent years, Colma has held many boxing events.
Today, Colma is home to 1,800 living residents and 1.5 million dead including some of America’s most famous personalities such as the denim trouser pioneer, Levi Strauss, newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and business tycoon Amadeo Giannini, the founder of Bank of America. [Ed note. Wyatt Earp is also buried here.]
The large number of under-the-ground population have earned the town the somber moniker “the City of the Silent”. Colma’s residents, however, take their situation with humor. The town’s official slogan is “It’s great to be alive in Colma.”
When Davo was a boy growing up in Rotorua, New Zealand, he always wanted to have his own Go Kart. But his childhood dream of zipping around a track in his miniature racing car, and maybe one day becoming a world-famous Formula 1 driver, was never realized. However, if Davo couldn’t have a Go Kart in life, he decided he would have one in death, and he was in the right town to make it happen.
At barely forty years old, with two young daughters, the professional chef was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Davo’s coffin, painted in camouflage, had four wheels with black tires and silver hubcaps, an intricately carved grill, a steering wheel, a vanity license plate with his name in all caps, and the number 43 emblazoned on either side.
Katie Williams, 76, the white-haired, motherly founder of “the Coffin Club,” a non-profit organization that helps members design and construct their own coffins, recounts the story of Davo – of whom Williams requested that only his first name be used – with tenderness and modest satisfaction. He was, after all, one of the first and youngest members in the history of the club, and his casket is still among one of the collective’s most elaborate creations.
every Wednesday morning, dozens of Rotoruans congregate at the club’s headquarters – a small converted warehouse – to build their own coffins, decorating them any way they wish, usually representing their life’s work, interests and obsessions. One man even put a pocket on the side of his casket for his wallet; he wanted to prove “you can take it with you.”
Since its first meeting, the Coffin Club has helped hundreds craft their own caskets. There’s the lifelong farmer with photographs of his favorite cows and sheep that will accompany him into the afterlife; the musician whose coffin looks more like a Steinway piano than a stairway to heaven; and the Vietnam War veteran who strapped an outboard motor to the vessel for his “final voyage,” and raised a few eyebrows when he lined it with the finest, dainty lace.