What a coffin maker can teach us

Marcus Daly makes coffins, beautiful, simple, sacred coffins. He found his calling amid tragedy. The first one he ever made was for his own child.

Daly says each handcrafted, wood coffin takes him about twenty-five hours to complete. “Mostly what I do is sand,” he says. “I feel like I sand and I sand and I sand. I never feel like it’s finished. But then I guess that’s kind of a fit[ting] thing because that’s probably how we feel at the end of our lives too.”

You can watch him work in this short, exquisite video.

I was particularly moved by Daly’s statement about shouldering the burden of a loved one. “I think that one of the most important aspects of the coffin is that it can be carried,” he says. “And I think we are meant to carry each other.”

Based on Vashon Island, Washington, the Catholic Daly named his small company Marian Caskets. The logo is a Marian cross — a cross with an M beneath the righthand beam. Daly adds it to his coffins as a reminder that Mary stood at the foot of the cross during the Passion.

The thrice-holy prayer

I am not familiar with its use in Catholic tradition, but Orthodox viewers will be intrigued and delighted to see him carving the Trisagion into the side of the coffin: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One Have Mercy Us.”

Though constantly used in daily prayer and corporate worship, perhaps one of the most emotionally powerful uses of this invocation is on Great and Holy Friday when worshippers process under the upraised funeral bier of Christ as the choir booms the familiar words, entering into the Savior’s death so that we might enter into his resurrection. Pascha was over a month ago now, and I can still hear the chanters in my mind.

Coincidentally, there is also an Orthodox monastery on Vashon Island. Perhaps there’s a connection to Daly’s use of the prayer.

Regardless, if any of my loved ones happen upon this post after I drop over, save yourself the trouble of shopping for my casket. I’ve already picked it out. I want one of Marcus Daly’s pine boxes.

Thanks to David Murray for pointing out the above video.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I want one too. Wow.

    • Joel J. Miller

      Pretty cool. I thought the video was amazingly well done.

      • Marcus

        Joel- Thanks for your beautiful reflections and kind words. I just ordered Lifted by Angels and can’t wait to read it. I love the Divine Liturgy and All Merciful Saviour Monastery was instrumental in our decision to live on Vashon Island.
        Michael- As someone who has benefitted from your writing, it is wonderful to read your “Wow.” God grant you both many years! Marcus

        • Joel J. Miller

          Marcus, please let me know how you find the book. I hope you enjoy it.

          • Marcus

            Will do.

  • Dave Murray

    As someone who is struggling with answering what I think is a calling, this video helps me see the beauty, the patience, and the perseverance necessary to hone one’s call. From tragedy comes life, as from the ashes of our lives we rise. This arrived in my email via another email, and I am stunned by the work of God to find the still, quiet moments to talk to us about our lives. The simplicity, gentleness and peace this story emanates grasps the heart and breathes life into a soul.

    And then, for me, I was further stunned when I saw the note of thanks to a David Murray, since I, too, bear that name (though of no relation).

  • Thiago

    The caskets in Chicago IL are a lot like this, or make them with this philosophy.