I want to die poor

I want to die poor

Dispensation, please, for a couple bottles of scotch

I want to die poor. Funny thing for an entrepreneur to say, but saying it I am. Here’s why.

For those not in the know, we are Piedmont Pine Coffins and we help families with natural burials. We make simple pine box coffins, urns, and pet caskets. Since we opened in August 2013, our revenues are up more than 300%.

But you know how statistics are, and you may also know what it’s like to start up a business. That is to say, I might not have a choice. The Saints Above might hand me poverty whether I will or no.

Brother, sez Life, your wish is my command.

On the other hand, we could also find ourselves, any day now, with a cash stream that outpaces anything I’ve yet seen in my working career. Our business model is sound, and despite our prices much lower than contemporary caskets, we can make a profit. I remember the comments of a certain funeral director I met graveside on the “set” of the Lisa Sorg documentary A Sense of the Fitness of Things, in which Piedmont Pine Coffins is lucky enough to have “product placement.” This funeral director related how he’d bought a funeral home for a smooth million after many years of being a casket salesman. I was astounded. How, I crassly asked, did you get the money together for such a purchase? “Casket sales,” he said, “was very good to me.”

Poverty: It. Could. Go. Ei. Ther. Way.

What I’m saying is this: A vow of poverty is the surrender to a strange kind of freedom. And surrender, for obvious reasons, is what dying is all about. In a death-positive context, surrender is relief and gift, the lifting of a life’s burdens. A new freedom.

Since Piedmont Pine Coffins is involved with end-of-life care, no-saint-that-I-am is trying to take advantage of this idea ahead of time.

Of course, the idea isn’t mine. No, it’s an ageless monastic idea. It’s the idea of Buddhist nuns and mystics and mendicants and itinerants like Jesus and cliff-dwelling monks. This world of ours doesn’t need more successful people. It needs more people with big hearts. Hat-tip for that last thought to David Orr.

You’ve heard the story of the monkey and the bottle?

To catch monkeys, hunters use a certain type of bottle trap. Inside a heavy bottle is a nugget of food. The monkey reaches in to clench the treasure in her fist. Now the monkey can’t pull out, since she’s caught in the bottle neck. The hunter leaps out and easily captures the monkey who — if she had only thought to let go — was never really trapped at all.

From the treasures of this world, says Death the Great Advisor, unclench your fist!


  1. Nice theology for any season of life–including the last earthly season……peace and blessings!