By Yael Brender
In a small town in New Zealand, a group of creatively rebellious seniors have found a way to combat the high cost of funerals.
‘The Coffin Club’ is a crazy, unique community organisation where elderly people build and personalise their own coffins, calling themselves ‘makers of fine, affordable, underground furniture’.
Its members recently joined forces with Loading Docs to produce a hilarious musical documentary about their mission.
More than 60 active members attend weekly workshops to ‘rejoice in life while facing the realities of death’, making sure that drab funerals are a thing of the past.
‘What’s the point of living a life that’s colourful and bold…And then you’re told this is how your exit’s going to be? Boring!’ sings founding director Katie Williams, 77.
‘What do you do when the music stops, when you’re on the way out, but there’s mounting costs? All for the price of a stupid wooden box!
‘So we stated a club to make coffins of our own, and save some cash, and my! How’s it grown!’
Founder Katie Williams, 77, who is a former midwife and hospice nurse, has inspired like-minded seniors to start their own clubs all over New Zealand.
‘I had seen lots of people dying and their funerals were nothing to do with the vibrancy and life of those people,’ Ms Williams told The Guardian last year.
‘You would not know what they were really like. That they had lived and laughed and loved. I had a deep-seated feeling that people’s journeys deserved a more personal farewell.’
‘You build a box. It’s a resting place to sing your song. It’s the final verse, but life goes on!’
People can decorate their coffins exactly the way they like; one man has plastered pictured of Elvis Presley all over his, while others have painted theirs with landscapes or covered them in newspaper.
The original coffin club, which has been active for over a decade in Rotarua, make home-made and personalised coffins go for just NZ$250 a pop.
‘In fact, we’ve ruffled some feathers,’ says Ms Williams gleefully in the video. ‘But we won them over in the end, and they couldn’t help but love us!’
In addition to building their own, the group also work hard to construct baby caskets which they donate to the local hospital free of charge.
A similar group recently popped up in Tasmania, and it’s clear that the idea is spreading.
The Coffin Club is a part of a brand new collection of 3 minute documentaries. The rest of the Loading Docs are available to watch for free at loadingdocs.net.