Aiken Mason makes own funeral plans

Funeral plans by a Mason in Aiken, SC

Danny (R) and LeeRoy (L) loading up

Making your own funeral plans takes some guts. Or, in the case of Danny, a 32nd degree Mason from Lodge 156 in Aiken, SC, just foresight and a sense of humor will do.

“I don’t want to sound morbid,” Danny tells me. “But I’m the last of my line, and if I don’t make funeral plans for what I want, I’m not going to get it.” Until the day of need comes around, Danny plans to store his casket from Piedmont Pine Coffins on a coffee table in his living room.

With the help of longtime friend LeeRoy (33rd degree, Lodge 156), Danny made the rounds in Aiken (to the funeral home, then to the cemetery) and in Columbia, which is where I met them at the intersection of I-20 and 26 to deliver a simple pine box coffin. Danny had heard about Piedmont Pine Coffins through a TV news report that originated in Raleigh and was later broadcast in Aiken.

Funeral plans by a Mason in Aiken, SC

Stain from black walnut hulls collected at the farmstead

Danny had two special requests for his coffin: a polyurethane stain and certain Masonic symbols on the lid. The latter — ancient ritual figures of square, compass, etc. — I cut from pine and stained with house-made black walnut stain. These are affixed to the lid of the coffin with dowels and glue or, in the case of the letter G, small nails so as not to split the fragile pine.

Danny would likely be glad to know that I used both a square and a compass in the making of his pine coffin. For new readers, Piedmont Pine Coffins makes everything by hand with old-time tools — no electricity or power tools.

Funeral plans by a Mason in Aiken, SC

A Mason’s coffin on the bench

The polyurethane certainly made the coffin shine and is a good idea for those who, according to their funeral plans, will need to store their box for a time. Since Danny is keeping his in a climate-controlled house, however, the stain is not strictly necessary. The wood will stay true as long as it is not exposed to big shifts in moisture and temperature.

Danny’s funeral plans — the coffin part — include what’s going in it. In the same box, along with him underground, he’ll have both a Carolina pillow and a Gamecocks blanket. “I’m a trouble-maker to the end,” he says.