“Someone oughta build some sensible caskets!”
That's how my older brothers and I ended many late-night conversations over the years. Our concern was rooted in information about high prices and limited choices which we had learned from a family friend who worked in the funeral industry.
It helped that each of us was "into wood" in one way or another. Our father was a master woodworker in postwar Germany until he brought his lathe and young family to Canada in 1956. It was he who acted first on the casketmaking idea.
In his retirement he crafted his-and-hers versions out of reclaimed wood and stored them in his garage. The first was used to bury my mother in 2001. (read a personal account of that event)
My own love for wood dates back to age 6 when I presented my father with a Christmas gift: a 1x4 scrap with "The Lord iz born" pencilled on it. In high school I built a coffee table and serving tray that survive to this day. Since then I have pursued carpentry as both a vocation and a hobby but it has often taken a back seat to various other pursuits aimed at changing the world.
Casketmaking combines several of my interests. I enjoy the craft. I also consider it a privilege to be allowed, in a small way, into the story of a person or a family as they wrestle with loss. And I want to be part of a gentle movement for change in the way we, as a society, deal with death.
Since 2004 I have offered people a chance to be buried, or to bury their loved one, in something that is beautiful, sensible, and built by someone whose name and face they can know, if they choose. I do so in a way that is economical for both the purchaser and the producer.
The All Natural Alternative
In recent years I have become convinced that natural burial is an ideal environmental choice. It aims to put fewer toxins into the ground and air than do conventional burial and cremation. It also has the potential to generate income from land left in its natural state, thus protecting the land from more destructive forms of development.
One requirement of natural burial is a non-toxic, biodegradable container. While all my caskets are designed to tread lightly on the planet, my All Natural casket meets the natural burial challenge head on.
It is made from sustainable and biodegradable softwoods and is sanded to a smooth, natural finish. The All Natural casket contains zero glue and zero metal, thanks to the use of slots and dowels and sisal rope. Its design was inspired by the distinctive log-building techniques of early settlers of the Red River valley.
In an environment where natural burial cemeteries are only beginning to develop, I have provided All Natural caskets to families seeking to reduce the overall environmental impact of cremations and conventional burials.
(click here to read “Touching the Body”, a reflection on my mother’s burial in a handmade casket)