Dungog Menshed engaged to make a coffin

SIZING UP: Dungog Menshed member Steve Jones ensures he has the right measurements for Helen Proud's coffin which her family will decorate. Helen will meet the legal requirements of the interior makeup of the coffin.
SIZING UP: Dungog Menshed member Steve Jones ensures he has the right measurements for Helen Proud's coffin which her family will decorate. Helen will meet the legal requirements of the interior makeup of the coffin.

Like most people Helen Proud wants to leave memories when she dies - but she is taking steps to ensure that's all she leaves.

She wants to leave as light of a trace of her environmental footprint as she can.

So she approached Dungog Menshed to make her a coffin from recycled material.

"I thought at age 74, it was time for me to have a coffin ready that would meet my criteria of a biodegradable, recycled casket that would ensure I would tread lightly on the planet, even after I die," she said.

For Steve Jones, it certainly is the most "unique" thing he has made at the men's shed. The former truck driver has found a passion for carpentry since joining the group but is more used to making Adirondack chairs than coffins.

Helen brought the plans along to Steve who has been working for several weeks on the project.

"You have to work with angles and all sorts of things I had not done before," he said.

John Martins said Dungog Menshed received many unusual requests for special orders but this one-off was the first of its type.

"We have a lot of members here with a variety of skills, we've got all sorts of equipment and Steve spends a lot of time researching things and has got right into the woodworking side," he said.

The coffin is made from plywood recovered from a commercial site and rope handles are also from recycled material. The only new components are the screws.

"While none of us know when we will die, we can at least be sure we will," said Helen.

"While we are able, we can plan to make it the best possible dying and death, not only for ourselves but for our loved ones too."

She said while death is inevitably a sad time for those left behind, she hopes it will be a happy time for her family and friends.

"I don't want anyone to be sad so I thought a cheerful coffin which the family could paint any way they like as well as putting paintings, poems, stories or letters in the coffin," she said.

"I'd love there to be lots of butterflies, bees and flying foxes painted on the coffin for they are what will pollinate our planet and ensure life in the future, with or without us.

"Not every death will be a happy death as illness, accidents, or bad life choices will sometimes be part of a death, but acceptance will end the fear and help everyone prepare for its inevitability.

"There is no way to cheat death. It is part of the gift we got when we got life."

In having her three grand children decorate her new coffin she hopes they don't carry negative feelings about death.

"And when their time comes to die they will make it a happy death day and not be afraid of it."