One fairly common need when someone dies is a coffin. There are various sorts on the market, from bamboo eco-coffins to embarrassingly-tasteless photo wraparounds to heavy walnut ones with carved panelling, which seems rather overkill for something which is to be observed once and then buried underground. I was discussing this with my father when he remembered that he actually has several sets of what are called coffin “blanks” stored away in a roof space. A coffin blank is basically an uncustomised coffin – the top and bottom are full size, waiting to be cut to fit, and the set includes the necessary extra pieces (sides and trim) to make it up.
When the local joiner in our home village retired 15+ years ago (and the jobs of joiner and undertaker were the same job for many centuries) he had several sets of blanks spare, and my father obtained these from him and stored them. They are made of elm, which is a traditional material for coffins but is now almost never used since Dutch Elm disease devastated the British population of elm trees in the 70s and 80s.
We found a joiner here in Loughborough with experience of making up coffins (although he says this is the first time he’s been commissioned to do one by the eventual occupant!). We had the blanks shipped to him, and I sent him my height and shoulder width. On Wednesday, we went to view the result. Elm is rather a “wibbly” wood, as can be seen from the first photo below, which means it’s relatively hard to work but also means it has lovely grains which come up beautifully when polished. Without further ado:
We’re very pleased with the results – it’s a lovely job.
I just saw your post on FB (right after I posted to your page, about Alfie Evans). I remember our conversation from so many years ago with fondness. I’ll be praying for you as you undergo the last, “doloroso” leg of your pilgrimage with Jesus. I will continue to pray for your miraculous healing (as it hardly seems fair that you should get to go home so soon).
Remember, all of the beauty and splendor that you behold on Earth, and perhaps may for a moment regret leaving, are just a dim reflection of God’s glory, as “through a glass, darkly”. He is all Good, all Truth, all Beauty. I am happy for you, that you will soon claim the fullness of your inheritance as an “adopted son”. You will have the beatific vision, which means nothing less than to see as God sees. (While there will always be an infinite ontological difference between creature and Creator, I wonder if, seeing as God sees, willing what God wills, and “beholding God”, we do not become, for all practical purposes, part of the Trinity (as adopted, albeit contingent, children). I am convinced that God, in His infinite magnanimity, calls us to nothing less than to share in the fullness of His divinity (as contingent beings).
Please remember me when you enter into Jesus’ kingdom. Please pray for me and my family to the Lord our God. If the Lord grants me the grace to also run a “good race”, I very much look forward to your friendship in eternity. Send me a note via email if you have any interest whatsoever in continuing our conversation. If you don’t have the strength to write and would rather talk, let me know, and I’ll give you my number (or call yours).
Pax et bonum, your brother in Christ,
PS, Padre Pio has a wonderful prayer in which I hope you find consolation: http://padrepiodevotions.org/stay-with-me-lord/