Social clubs bring like-minded people together to engage in activities and interests ranging from gardening to playing bridge. But in New Zealand, clubs offering a different — and some might even say odd — activity are drawing people together. Casket building.
And not just any caskets. This activity is highly personal, as members work on designing and then building their own casket, to one day be used as their final resting place.
They’re called do-it-yourself coffin clubs and the members offer up a variety of reasons for joining. Some actually want to trim funeral expenses for their family when their days on earth are over — a handmade casket costs about $200. But a growing number of people join, saying it’s a good way to get accustomed to the idea of their mortality.
National Geographic reports these coffin clubs are springing up all over New Zealand, drawing people who believe its time to talk about, and take a different approach to death. Meetings are more than about carpentry and design — they often include discussions about death.
The movement appears to have begun a decade ago when someone at a meeting of retired people got up and said, right out of the blue, “you know, I think I would like to build my own casket!”
But after the uncomfortable silence, a few people laughed and others came up to 77-year old Katie Williams, a retired palliative care nurse, and told her it was not a bad idea. After recruiting some retired carpenters to help, Williams put out the word. According to National Geographic about 60 people, mostly in their 70s, showed for for the first meeting.
Then more clubs formed. Members get instruction and some supervision in the construction of their caskets, then are allowed to let their creativity take over. They paint their caskets in bright colors and often add distinctive designs that reflect the future occupants’ loves and passions — the things they enjoy most in life.
Williams says the enterprise has helped her get more comfortable with the idea of death. She says life should be celebrated, but so should the end of life.