The act of building a coffin seems to spark the most interesting conversations about death and dying. The disclosure of my Life Box project seems to open the door for people to safely talk about their wishes, hopes, possibilities, and regrets at the end of theirs and others lives. The general consensus seems to be a wish for more openness and discussion in families and among friends. People have told me what they think their friend’s or relatives Life Box would look like and what they think it might have held in terms of memories, events, and experiences. I have heard so much tenderness and enthusiasm as people talk about death in the context of a Life Box. Here are some of the ideas that have arisen:
Certainly, death is something that is for us all (like birth); the exact moment or circumstance can’t be chosen but the threshold experience is there and the choice is available in how it is celebrated or marked (usually) after the fact. In this regard, how do peoples’ choices come to be and what are the possibilities of choosing differently (maybe like I have done)? We do have the power to change the cultural expectations around these threshold events.
Since so many things happen over a lifetime, symbolizing important events or anything notable becomes an exciting challenge. The creative and spontaneous process of making the box in someways allows the box to sort of make itself. I can have ideas about what I would like to include, but how those things actually manifest in reality are not going to be the exact match of my imagination. There is something about the process of the making that forms what will be. This is somewhat of a mystery at this moment. For example, I am practicing writing backwards because I want all the words to be a mirror image. How this will actually look once I start putting the writing on the wood will be different than it is on the paper that I practice on. The space is different and writing on wood versus paper will change the look of the resulting text to a degree.
I have also noticed that people still think that once the box is done, I will die. In some sense this is correct, I will die but maybe not right away (at least I hope not!). One person I talked to hoped that it would take a long time for me to complete the box for this reason. I have to admit, this repeated message is getting under my skin a little bit. I heard myself reminding her that I wouldn’t die once it was done; I didn’t see that as part and parcel of the process–you know…coffin’s complete, now I can (should) die. This magical thinking is something that I need to hold as a question and curiousity.
So, those are the main points for now.