Last month, my grandpa Jack passed away at the age of 81. I posted a bit about it here.
As my mother, two aunts, and grandmother talked about what to do with his ashes, we discussed various options for urns. My grandpa was a simple, rustic farmer with no admiration for faux riche luxury or unnecessary expense. He wanted to be cremated because the idea of an expensive suit, burial, and casket simply didn’t appeal to him. Honestly, if he’d have been able to speak before his death, he’d likely have laughed and told us to put his ashes in a coffee can and tape a picture of him on the side. That was grandpa.
We discussed putting his ashes in his old moonshine jug – a symbol of him we all knew and loved, but ultimately, my grandma asked me to build a wooden box out of materials from the farm that would mean something to him. I was honored she would ask me, and was determined to make something she would be proud of.
I drove two hours out to the family farm on a beautiful Sunday, and harvested weathered barn wood from the smokehouse of the house my grandpa grew up in – boards hand cut and planed by his father (my great grandpa Madison). I also took the smokehouse’s hand-forged door latch. I took a horseshoe (I’ve been told it’s actually a mule shoe) from my grandpa’s workshop, the handle from his father’s handmade toolbox, and one of grandpa’s favorite flannel shirts.
Since Colonel Dad has much better tools than I do, and a few more years of crafting experience, I decided to make the actual fabrication of the box into a father/son bonding experience. We had a great time, and I couldn’t be happier with the final product. I emailed pictures of the box to my grandma, and her response was simple, but extremely moving. She emailed back saying, “Eric, you have done a very good thing.”
I can think of no greater compliment from anyone on the planet.