the coffin maker

coffin maker

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

Six years ago I was doing the morning thing-drinking a cup of coffee and listening to the wrens wake up the world and our local news program on NPR. The news anchor was giving a special report about the local population of homeless people and how the city of Gainesville ( Florida ) is deemed the most unfriendly city in the USA where the homeless are concerned.
One of the points the speaker made was how the indigent in our area are buried in nothing more than a cardboard box which is normally used to cover a casket when they fly one across country.
I could not stop thinking about that and knew it was so because years back when I worked in mortuary service I saw the same thing it recalled how it bothered me. So-I took what memory I could retain from Fred who I spoke about in yesterdays story-Fred hand built coffins,a trade he had learned growing up in a family of old time undertakers.
I decided to build one for myself first. Now you talk about a burglar deterent-keeping a coffin in your living room will certainly cause one to think before they go about robbing you.
But not to get off the track…I decided after completing mine and getting the pattern back down on paper that I could keep myself occupied by building one of these right after another and giving them to funeral homes to keep aside for someone who has no money and to keep them from breaking thier bank for expensive items to bury someone in-when I could provide someone with a decent nicely crafted simple box .
Having been poor-a position thats been mine most of the time,I know the dignity we try to keep…head up,eyes straight,and people tending to judge you with thier own conclusions as to why you are poor-and homeless….and much of the time are mistaken by thier foolish conclusions.
The woman that interviewed me for this article must have not paid any attention to what I said about my intentions because the article is not accurate-she even goofed with my name (I guess to keep people from finding me-but I live so far out in the middle of no where it would be to challengeing to look me up). I find most truth is messed with during newspaper interviews. It just bugged the daylights out of me-we judge people so much while they are alive and with us….and judgement is not ours. We can be wrong about someone by the danger of our immediate reaction to whom we might be introduced to and because someone is homeless does not mean they are and have been useless to life and society…even though I agree there is sadly evil and bad seeds among any crowd any where and any position in society,rich or poor. I became homeless years and years ago because I trusted my employeers who made it appear they were highly religous folks-and one of the owners of the company had a father on the bench in a local court-a man who had once been a state senator….they went to prison,I became a homeless man with a young family-all because I trusted.
So it is’nt drugs,and it is’nt being a drunk-not those alone,although they fit into the homeless definition-I’ve been to the highest society clubs in West Palm Beach-or Miami,and seen people in thier BMW’s tooting coke,staggering drunk! A man or woman can become homeless with out announcement and any fair warning…and even by trusting someone else.

These are’nt just pine boxes. Every one I have made and given away have been embellished with some kind of crafted ornate design such as how I laminated pecan-a crucifix -onto the top,which was made of cedar. I have no idea whom has been put in my coffins-except Bill,he is buried in Maryland…his family sent a grandaughter to pick up the box. It was kind of funny about Bill…he knew he was sick for a few years and he got real bad and the family thought he was going to die and he had heard of my coffins and requested one. It seems as soon as it was finished old Bill got better-and stayed on for another two years. I build each one thinking about who it may be for-somehow feeling that person might be comforted knowing someone cared and was thinking especially about them while thier burial cabinet was being crafted. Funny how a guy could be so nutty to imagine such a thing….but in reality-I think it is special.
I fondly carved each end of Bills coffin-celtic crosses out of pine. And any one that knows me knows how symbolic birds are in spiritual things-and as I was putting the frame together for Bills box I found this feather from a hawk and placed it inside.
It is a very interesting thing to think about-knowing the time and care that is going into my art and carving is eventually going to be buried and never to be seen ever again.
But the reward to me is the imagination that entertains me while I am working on one-of helping some one special.

2 Responses to “the coffin maker”

  1. Charlotte Says:

    I hope you tell the story about the hawk ‘in’ your home one day…

  2. jayherron Says:

    …you gotta read these things-I’m faster than you are!!!

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