OPINION: He who makes it, sells it. He who buys it, doesn't use it. He who uses it, doesn't know it.
Now if you would be so kind as to look away while you figure out what it is . . .
The answer, (and here's where we go la-de-dah because we're trying to put a decent distance between it and the question, which isn't easy in this sort of format) is a coffin.
Or rather, it was. Perhaps it was never entirely true, given that it's long been the case that some people buy their own coffins in advance of their demise.
But in any case, we now have better reason to bury this particular puzzle because people are now happily - yes happily - building their own coffins. In the most recent example, a course has started in Culverden. It's run, we're reassured to note, by a woodwork teacher, Bruce Anink.
His background is more personal to the task than merely being adept with wood. Though too distraught at the time to have built a coffin for his stillborn daughter 22 years ago, he has since helped other fathers build them for their babies, and about five years ago travelled to Gore to help build his grandson's coffin. The whole family was involved. In such sorrowful circumstances, that's no bad thing.
And what is more, those who are building coffins for themselves or their loved ones in advance of their final use are quite reasonably putting them to use in the meantime as liquor cabinets, blanket boxes, bookcases and (why not?) coffee tables.
After all, we do pride ourselves on being a DIY nation; the sort where folk would appreciate a good piece of woodwork.
It may be a while yet before the hardware store TV ads are scolding that you don't want to be the guy who has someone else build their coffin, but it's not hard to understand that the practice appears to be becoming increasingly popular.
Come to think of it, a recycling component might be in order, too. And not solely in wood. Why shouldn't some of our larger citizens be buried in a nicely customised bathtub? Or have their favourite easy chair closed in?
Death rituals should have the flexibility to allow for individual touches. Artwork included. Way back in the late 1990s we were reporting personalised paint jobs on coffins, like a surfer whose coffin showed a board rider catching a wave.
The funeral industry itself has long been open to little touches of what might be called eccentricity but what really represents particular interests and sensibilities of the deceased. When you leave this life, the ceremony, including your coffin, should be a celebration of how you lived.
Of course there must be limits - so nix to the jokers who have been secreting aerosol cans and fireworks in coffins bound for cremation.
If some people want to make, in passing, a political point then this, too, should be their right. We doubt that those who fashioned a coffin out of cigarette packets to present it to Parliament were particularly minded to put it to functional rather than symbolic use. But the day may come.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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