A separation that brings unity


“It’s not the coughin’ that kills you,” my late first husband used to say. “It’s the coffin they carry you off in.”

The thought came to mind recently, as I read an article in Catholic Digest.

Marcus Daly crafts plain wooden caskets on his property in Washington state. He was inspired in his mission by the casket of St. John Paul II.

Several of this Catholic father’s seven children help him in his work -- from sweeping the wood shavings to painting messages of mercy on the caskets. The work, he said, isn’t morbid or depressing. Rather, it’s a reminder of all that is beautiful about life, and that death isn’t something to fear. He thinks that helping in the workshop has helped him communicate this to his children.

He sees courage and strength in those who are dying, many of whom have visited his business to purchase their caskets. It’s helped his children to witness courage and joy in those facing death, a different perspective than many people, who shy away from the thought of their demise.

Daly communicates that it is a passage. All that makes each soul special continues on; this life prepares us for the next, he says. His caskets help many people prepare for their own passage, and his work echoes the teachings of a number of saints.

“But man was created for immortality, and by His resurrection Christ opened the gates of the Heavenly Kingdom, of eternal blessedness for those who have believed in Him and have lived righteously,” exhorted St. John the Wonderworker.

“Our earthly life is a preparation for the future life, and this preparation ends with our death.”

Those who see exiting this life as the end have no hope. But Christ gave Himself that we would have the hope of eternity with Him.

Our savior inspires us to live in that hope, and live our lives accordingly, to secure that hope. Countless saints encourage us to walk in faith in God’s promise of the life to come.

Death is not the Grim Reaper of comics, nor a dread specter from gothic novels. It is not to be feared, the saints remind us.

“It is not Death that will come to fetch me, it is the good God,” said St. Therese of Lisieux. “Death is no phantom, no horrible specter, as presented in pictures. In the catechism it is stated that death is the separation of soul and body, that is all! Well, I am not afraid of a separation which will unite me to the good God forever.”