Looking Death In The Eye: Caskets In Your Home

Updated: 03/31/2014 1:15 PM
Created: 11/13/2012 4:21 PM
By: Laurie Stribling

Caskets take on a new function in Duluth and Grand Marais. The Duluth Casket Shop sells eco-friendly caskets made with wood from area sawmills, but owner Jude Collins said a new design is expanding the use of a casket.

Collins was approached by a friend, Father William Graham, about making a casket that can be used as a bookcase until it's put in the ground. Graham works at St. Scholastica and said he wanted the "casket-turned-bookcase" to remind him of death in his daily life.

"Saint Benedict, and his rule for monastery, has 73 instruments of good work," Graham said. "Number 47 is 'keep death daily before your eyes'. So, this is a reminder that we will all die."

Graham said death should not be feared, but at the forefront of your mind. He said this mentality may change how you conduct yourself in daily life.

"It lets us know that we have limited number of days," Graham said. "These days are precious and there are things to do: work to do, prays to say, hymns to sing."

While Graham has come to terms with death, some might think using a casket for a bookshelf is eerie. Graham and Collins disagree.

"It doesn't scare me," Graham said. "You're going to be in one too. It's a good thing for us to consider that because it helps us live better day to day a think."

"I haven't met anybody whose gotten out alive yet," Collins said. "Sometimes, in life, we just have to take the bull by the horns and do it."

Up in Grand Marais, a group takes a more hands-on approach to this idea. The North House Folk School holds a casket-building class.

"It's a course we like to joke about," Director Greg Wright said. "Everybody does. Build your own casket; bury yourself in your work."

During the class, they teach people how to build a basic casket that can be used earlier in life as a coffee table or bookshelf.

"There is a lot of people who are rather inquisitive about it," Instructor Randy Schnobrich said. "(They say) what's it like? Doesn't it sound kind of morbid?"

While Schnobrich knows it may seem odd to many people, he has had wonderful experiences teaching the class. Both Schnobrich and Wright agreed people could learn a lot from death.

"If we all lived that way a little bit more with that clarity, as soon as we can see, you're going to live a lot better life," Schnobrich said. "(Rather) than denying it the whole time, and then get to the end and find out I wish I did a lot of other stuff."

"One could pretty easily argue that the world would be a better place if we all stopped and got to build our own casket," Wright said. "It would challenge us to think a little bit about, what am I here for? How do I want to touch this world?"

The North House Folk School offers many different classes in Nordic craft. For more information, click here.

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