There are people who fear death and then there’s John – hilarious, practical, a retired engineer, a clay shooting enthusiast, and a family man.
John Wood died on December 14. And he was ready.
His funeral was in Melbourne yesterday (30/12). He’d planned his own farewell with funeral director Carly Dalton and had designed his own coffin, rolling out the plans at his kitchen table when Carly came to visit.
The gun cartridge coffin
And oh what a coffin! John was a keen clay target shooter so his coffin is shaped like a gun cartridge and made from cardboard tubing that fits snugly over a hand-made timber tray.
John’s two carpenter sons made two coffins – the fun gun cartridge one for the funeral and a quirky, yet practical one for the cremation itself.
His plan was to be brought home after his funeral so family and friends could have a relaxed day and night remembering the good times, sharing memories and saying farewell. And, while tinged with sadness, they would no doubt smile every time they glanced over to John’s very personal and unique coffin. That’s what personalising funerals and memorials can do – provide solace, comfort, peace, and the occassional smile or laugh during the grieving process.
Hitting the target: Planning the farewell
Funeral director Carly has organised the funerals of John’s wife and daughter in recent years.
“John had the presence of mind before recent major surgery to arrange a funeral planning meeting for himself,” said Carly.
“He was going into hospital for a triple bypass and had a complication which saw him stay in hospital. He’d ring me and say that if the heart didn’t kill him, the food would. He was not afraid of death at all!”Carly Dalton, Greenhaven Funeral Services
In his sights: the coffin messages
When you’re cremated, you’re put into a furnace called a cremator. There are size restrictions and there are also restrictions on what materials can go into the chamber.
Much like a bride changing into a honeymoon outfit, John will be cremated in a more practical coffin today, New Year’s Eve. This one is made of particle board, and it’s been decorated on the inside as well as outside. Inside is a picture of Uluru, which he loved. There’s also stars and planets. And mourners will write messages on the inside lid “so he can read the messages while he’s lying there”.
John even rang the crematorium himself to get the permitted coffin measurements. (Once an engineer, always an engineer).
Arming the family
All this planning, well before John was even dead, allowed his family to address John’s mortality together. It’s allowed them to mourn and celebrate John just as he wanted. What a wonderful gift John gave his family. They were able to begin their grief journey while he was still alive to hear their words and see their loving actions. Beautiful memories were made while John, his sons and grandsons were working on his coffins. Imagine the laughter and the genuine hugs and conversations that were had.
So what will become of the gun cartridge coffin now that John’s funeral is over? Well, John has organised for it to be transported to his shooting club where his mates there will hold their own memorial aka a celebration of John’s life. He wants the coffin burnt on a pyre. Hilarious.
Lessons to be learned from John
- Talk to your family about what you want for your funeral, even if you think you’re not going to die anytime soon. You can write your plans and your life’s reflections in The Bottom Drawer Book for when the time finally comes. It will help them at a difficult time.
- Find a funeral director you trust and can have open, candid discussions with. I urge you to shop around until you find the right funeral director for you or your loved one’s needs, just like Carly from Greenhaven was the right funeral director for John and his family. Many funeral directors remain traditional which is great if you want a traditional funeral. But these days there are also funeral directors who embrace quirky ideas and will do everything they can to accommodate your needs.
- Funerals do not have to ‘fit the mould’. John was obviously a practical and good-humoured bloke. His lifestyle became his deathstyle.
Stay tuned for updates
In coming days I’ll add photos of John’s completed cremation coffin and, in a few weeks, his gun club coffin pyre. And follow Greenhaven Funeral’s facebook page for updates too.
“Make me a celebrity”
Good-natured and jovial John Wood gave permission to share his story before he died. “Make me a celebrity” he said. So here we are. Let’s give him what he wanted.
Rest easy, John.