Over the July 4th holiday I took my daughter to the largest colonial celebration west of the Mississippi. I was not sure what to expect, but I wanted to give my daughter a new experience and see how blessed we are with all that we have today.
We walked around and learned how hair was done with waxes and powders. We watched yarn being made on wood spinning wheels like the one in the story of Sleeping Beauty. We saw soldiers loading and shooting muskets. We watched wheel pottery made. We learned how wood was turned into bed posts, candlesticks, bowls, etc. There were so many things that took us back in time.
BUT. The little booth that will stay with me the longest was the coffin maker. It was a simple canvas tent that had three coffins in a U shape in the tent. That was it. His sweet wife sat outside the tent sewing. I was not sure what to say or ask, but it made me think of the sweet story of Abraham Lincoln as a boy. I said to the coffin maker, “Your simple pine boxes remind me of the story about Abraham Lincoln & that his father put him in charge of making the wooden pegs for his mother’s coffin.” The sweet man genuinely took in the story and was touched. This coffin maker touches the wood, makes the pegs, puts love and craftsmanship into these boxes. He appreciated his work. He then lit up, “Do you want to see my work?” Not sure what else we would see besides wooden boxes, we said, “sure” and followed him into his tent.
He then opened a binder full of images & he began to tell us a couple sweet stories. He told us how a woman had come to the colonial festival a couple years ago and had passed by their tent numerous times, but did not talk to them or come in. Finally as the day was winding down she & her husband entered the tent. She looked at the pine boxes and expressed to her husband that this simple box was exactly what she wanted. The woman took the coffin makers information & a year later her family contacted him. He made them a simple pine box & delivered it to them when they knew she was close to dying. The woman’s daughter then hand painted the box with beautiful flowers that covered all the sides and part of the top. It was a beautiful piece of art. The coffin maker showed us the picture of the coffin & said, “she was able to see the beautiful work her daughter had done & then she died a week later.”
My heart broke, but then I looked at this sweet coffin maker who took such pride in his work and he turned the page of his album to another story.
Another beautiful pine box that was covered in hand prints, good bye notes, signatures, farewells, all hand written across the simple box. At this woman’s funeral the coffin maker waited in line to see his work complete and thank the family. He said there was a huge line of people waiting & in back of him was a very nicely dressed couple. They were looking at the coffin and the wife said to her husband, “I did not realize they were so destitute & unable to buy her a proper coffin.” The coffin maker stood there in line & watched what happened. As the couple approached the husband of the woman who had passed they mentioned their concern about the coffin & felt badly that they were unable to help. The husband looked at the couple & said, “This is exactly what my wife picked out.”
The coffin maker beamed as he told us this story and was able to show us the images of all the love that covered his beautiful craftsmanship. He said, “it was neat to see that it gave some closure, others a final farewell message.”
It was a great lesson that we each have our own missions to help one another & this sweet man and his wife have touched people’s lives in a way I would have never imagined. It was wonderful to see the pride in his work, to see the love that he shares and that he knows he is on purpose with his life.
It was also a great lesson that we need to cherish each and every day. We never know how long we have to be with those we love. I would rather tell them I love them and appreciate them in my life than have to write it on a pine box.
Have a beautiful day. -H