Put me in a box

An organization of which I’ve been a big fan for years is the Institute for Justice, a team of Davids repeatedly taking on Goliaths who use the powers of government to keep small businesspeople from competing with them. IJ’s defense of monks who make and sell cheap, sturdy caskets, against a mortician’s lobby that wants to put them out of business, appeals to me in particular, because I despise the avarice of a death industry that descends upon the grieving to sell them elaborate caskets and funeral services. From IJ’s site:

“Can the government restrict economic liberty just to enrich a group of politically favored insiders?

That’s the question the Institute for Justice and its client, Saint Joseph Abbey of St. Benedict, La., have taken to federal court in challenging the constitutionality of Louisiana’s outrageous requirement that the monks of the Abbey must be licensed as funeral directors and convert their monastery into a licensed funeral home in order to sell their handmade wooden casket.

Under Louisiana law, it is a crime for anyone but a licensed funeral director to sell ‘funeral merchandise,’ which includes caskets. To sell caskets legally, the monks would have to abandon their calling for one full year to apprentice at a licensed funeral home, learn unnecessary skills and take a funeral industry test. They would also have to convert their monastery into a ‘funeral establishment’ by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming human remains.”

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it, what sorts of restrictions the mortuary industry has imposed in your own state, under the guise of safety and propriety, to insure that you buy their expensive wares. Wife and I have agreed we want to be buried in pine boxes (hopefully not too soon). Is that even allowed in Kansas?

This puts me in mind of something I’ve discussed with friends, which is the need to start a Pine Box Society. Members commit to be buried in pine boxes (at their appointed times), with some kind of public acknowledgement of their choice (a sticker on the box? a logo?). The acknowledgement would serve both to spare their families embarrassment (“Can you believe they’re burying him in a pine box? Oh no dear, he wanted it that way.”), and to spread the idea. Who’s with me?


  1. Aaron

    Sign me up. Not sure about burial law here in Virginia, but you’ve just summed up everything I think about the death industry.

    I can sorta understand the requirement for concrete vaults, but there is little else about the American way of death that makes any sense.

  2. Random Thoughts

    The fact that the people making the funeral and burial decisions are typically shell-shocked and grieving makes it all the worse. I vividly recall, 48 hours after her sudden death, having to choose what sort of urn in which to put my late mother’s ashes: The “cheap” one (frankly ugly polymer) versus the expensive one (marble). If it had been a coffin instead of an urn it would have been even worse. I remember thinking “Does it matter?! She’s dead, she doesn’t care.” Faced with a salesperson strongly implying that an inexpensive urn indicated a lack of filial duty, I caved, bought the marble, and hated the whole process.

    Sign me up for the pine box. I do not want to put my kids through that absurdity.

  3. kara nutt

    I totally agree. I would be fine with a plastic bag myself, after all, I won’t be there anymore, its just a shell for my soul.

  4. robert

    When I arranged my mothers funeral, the undertaker showed me his best casket which cost $30,000. He said it was what she had my father buried in. His face fell when I said that meant she hadn’t followed his wishes.Then I picked out a much more modest model.

  5. Bryan M

    My grandfather grew up in a farmhouse in southern Alabama, where, he said, they always kept some pine boards under the house. Just in case.

  6. David Andersen

    I’m 100% in agreement. I despise how money is wasted on pointless and elaborate burialware. I’ve always wanted to either be buried in a pine box or cremated (I wonder what that costs?).

  7. Ilona

    I love the way Bryan’s grandfather thought! I, too, have the pine box ethos, although I don’t much care for bumper sticker in general 😉

  8. David Tate

    I would totally sign up for that.

    The best alternative I have heard of at the moment is donating one’s body to science.

    I know you and others may not care for some of things that go along with that, but when my grandfather died, those were his wishes, and the family got a letter with details on specifically how different parts of his body were donated to different people.

    It was a cathartic letter to read for many of the family to know that in his death his decision was able to help others.

  9. Scott

    Sign me up. Except there won’t be much to put in the box. I’ve long said “I’ll be done with it – take out what someone else can put to good use and burn the rest!” Or as my grandfather said when the mortician asked what to do with Grandma’s ashes: “Doesn’t matter to me – put ’em under your rose bushes!”

    My only reservation is as an amateur genealogist – this sort of behavior makes people hard to locate…

  10. Random Thoughts

    Scott, so much of our lives nowadays is in databases, our descendants ought to be able to track down our existence even without a body in a box. One of the blessings…or not…of the digital age: If you are in a database you’re never really dead. True story, I received a piece of mail today addressed to my late father. He died nearly 15 years ago, and he never lived at my address. Some charity’s mailing list is sadly in need of an update.

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