Sunday, May 2, 2010

Simplicity - A Plain Pine Box

"'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right."

These are the words of the 1848 Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" that Aaron Copeland used in his classic symphonic composition, "Appalachian Spring".  The music is wonderful.  The idea of "simple" appeals to me.

When it came time to inagurate Thomas Jefferson as the third president of the young American Republic on March 4, 1801, he made a statement by dressing in very plain clothes (when the rest of the crowd turned up in foppish finery)  As others arrived in fashionable carriages, Mr. Jefferson walked from his boarding house to the unfinished Capitol Building.  Like it, he believed the capitol city and the form of government that he participated in birthing was a work in progress.   The imperial presidency was the furthest thing from his mind.

Memorial Services are unique for the centerpiece - The coffin.  At my mother's service I learned for the first time in 62 years that pink was her favorite color.  Her white enamel coffin with pink roses on each corner and pink edges fading to white was just like her, a class act.   As I've thought about my own funeral, I've made a decision.  I've thought about this concept for years.  If this paragraph ends up in my last will and testament it should read, in part:

"I,  Jon Robert Howe, being of sound mind, direct the professionals involved in the disposition of my earthly remains to place me gently into a plain pine box."

Gramma Rosie is toying with being buried at sea to honor her navy heritage.  (Of course there's the question of where to put the flowers on memorial day.)  I've joked that if she did, the fish would get her.  She laughs  back, "Better fish than worms!"  My decision doesn't have to be made all right now--but you can tell we've been thinking about these things.   After the spending spree that went on for her own mother's funeral with expensive floral sprays, my dear wife is concerned we work with a reputable pre-paid funeral company and work out the details well in advance for a fair price.  Gramma's wise about such things.

Think about it.  Choice of a coffin is primarily to comfort the friends and family.  For the incredible sums polished mohogany coffins cost the family, they're good for maybe three hours.  From the funeral home to the church viewing and onto the service.  From there to the graveside service--then lowered into the ground.

Polished Mohogany makes a wealthy statement--but the family would rather put that money to good work.   Polished wood makes money for the funeral home and makes a statement!  It's all wrapped up on the wrong reasons we go to church.  So many attend to see and be seen.

I remember when an older woman who had married well walked into church.  My friend, now passed away, had been a banker and knew wealth when he saw it.  OK, she was wearing an understated mink stole.  He turned to me and whispered, "Here comes money!"   There's a lot of preaching in scripture about high wigs, crispin pins and the stink of "fashion" on church members in the latter-days.

In the same spirit of Jimmy Carter carrying his own luggage as President of the United States, please plant me in a plain pine box.  At this post my choice for a burial container retails for $750.  I may build my own and as some do, keep it as a combination coffee table and cedar chest.  . That would drive my Rosie nuts!   I must admit she's got the last word.  She suggested that if I do build my own plain pine box, I should use stout 3/4" playwood and several steel reinforcements.  lol/JRH

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