What a coffin maker can teach us

What a coffin maker can teach us June 6, 2013

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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