A Story for November
Some requests just can’t be denied, but can they be fulfilled?
As we come to the end of the Church Year and the Year of Faith, with thoughts on death, judgment, heaven, and hell and the Poor Souls this is a story worth reading told to me by Marcus Daly, maker of Mom’s coffin for whenever we need it.
Marcus got a call from two sisters (blood-relatives, not nuns) whose father had just died. They wanted him to make their dad’s coffin, but time was short — the funeral would be held in two days. Marcus told them that he needed to consider whether he could get it done in time for them. He called the mortuary in charge of the funeral arrangements and was told by the director that the sisters’ father was a very big man. Morticians had tried to discourage Marcus at other times, so he was a little dubious since the sisters had said nothing about their dad’s size.
Marcus talked to the sisters again, and they confirmed that their dad was big. This meant it was going to take more time to make the coffin, and Marcus told the sisters that he didn’t think he would be able to build and deliver it. The sisters said that they really wanted him to make the coffin, and one of the sisters told him why. Marcus’ coffins are modeled after Blessed John Paul II’s coffin – the Pope’s funeral inspired him to go into the coffin making apostolate. The one sister said that her daughter had a brain tumor, and their family had made a pilgrimage to Rome to pray for the daughter. JPII’s funeral took place during the time they were in Rome. Before the funeral, a Swiss Guard learned of the story of the family and why they were in the Eternal City. It was arranged that they would be able to be in the room where John Paul’s body lay in his coffin with no one else around, giving them a chance to pray in solitude.
Marcus asked for more time to consider the logistics of getting the coffin ready in time. During dinner, he determined that he would have to be working more than 24 hours straight in order to get the coffin done. He just didn’t think he could do it, so he called the sisters back and told them his decision. The other sister said there was another reason that they wanted him to make their dad’s coffin. Marcus’ signature coffin is engraved with the words of the Divine Mercy. This daughter told him that she has a daughter who never speaks, never makes any sound at all, except when they pray the Divine Mercy. That is when she will hum along to the rhythm of the prayers.
Game changer; clincher; seal the deal: you name it, that story did it. Marcus agreed to make the coffin and started stockpiling caffeine. He did tell the sisters that he would be able to finish the coffin, but not finish the coffin. That is, he could get it built, but he wouldn’t be able to put a finish on the wood.
He had 34 hours to build the coffin including the carving of the words of the Divine Mercy, prepare the inside, sail across on the ferry from Vashon Island to the mainland and then drive 85 miles to deliver it to the funeral home in Anacortes. He began at 10 that night cutting the pieces and gluing the wood together. He caught a couple hour’s sleep while the glue dried.
He got up early in the morning and worked all day and all night into the early morning of the next day. Now it was time to make the straw-filled bed. He had nothing with which to make the bed. You’ve heard of grave robbers, well, Marcus became a coffin robber. He robbed a coffin on a shelf in his workshop of its bed. The coffin he robbed was Mom’s! (Marcus has been keeping her coffin in storage for us.) Mom is not large, and so neither was the bed for her coffin, but it was doubled over. Marcus called for help. Usually his wife Kelly is the bed maker, but she was incapacitated with pregnancy related illness, so their friend Leslie came to the rescue. She refashioned the interior of Mom’s coffin and fitted it for the dad’s coffin. (Mom’s bed has since been replaced.)
All that was left to do was to catch the 5:45 a.m. ferry, drive north for two hours on no sleep and deliver the coffin to the funeral home.
Marcus remembers little about the drive. He was fighting to stay awake the whole way. At one point he reached down to pick up his hat from the floorboard, and once in his hand, he thought the hat felt very funny – as if it were splitting into pieces, changing in his hand as he held it. This is when he realized his hat was really a banana peel. He was tired, but did not walk into the funeral home with a Chaquita Chapeau, all the rage these days in Central America and France, outselling Panama Hats and Berets. [Note of interest: Panama Hats are actually made in Bolivia and are known there as jipijapas.]
The funeral director praised the craftsmanship of the coffin. Marcus refrained from asking if he could lie down in it for a while.
Somehow he found the drive back to Vashon easy.
Later, Marcus received a beautiful note from the sisters thanking him for his labor of love. Their parish priest was struck by the coffins significance and beauty and many friends wanted to know where they had gotten such a wonderful coffin.
Marcus has a new webpage at www.mariancaskets.com Check it out and be sure to watch the video – it is awesome.
Poor Souls, please pray for us.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.