Farewell Grandma Esther

Today our family celebrated the life of Esther A. Caughlin who died on Monday, June 25th. Having celebrated her 92nd birthday, Esther's life was filled with the laughter and joy of a large family.  Esther's room was a reflection of her life as it was filled with many photographs, cards, and artwork from 11 grandchildren (and their spouses) and 19 great-grandchildren plus countless nieces, nephews, and friends.

Hands both large & small.
Esther had requested that she be buried in a Northwoods Casket.  As our family made Grandma's funeral arrangements, my wife Julie (a grand-daughter) had the idea to invite the family over to our Carriage House shop to decorate Grandma Esther's simple pine casket.  Several grandchildren & great-grandchildren arrived at the task with paint and brushes in hand. First we used old-fashioned milk paint to stencil flowers on the casket.  Next we encouraged everyone to add a hand-print or two with any color of their choosing for a wide variety of hand-prints both large and small.  Finally, with as many children and adults as could crowd around the casket we painted rainbows, flowers, colorful designs, and even a birthday cake.  The whole process was a very pleasant four to five hours as family made time to drop by and paint a few strokes.

I have to say the result was an impressive tribute to Grandma with so much depth in the personal touches of so many hands.  I have not experienced anything like it before.  During the visitation before Grandma's funeral, I was sitting quietly with one of Julie's cousins when we both noticed something. There were many small children at this funeral and ALL of them regularly approached the casket.  They were not afraid to stand right next to Grandma in the open casket and talk to her.  Children, ages 3 to 13 were not hesitant to put their hands on the beautiful casket or briefly touch the back of Grandma's hands.  Then we noticed her casket filling up with more and more drawings and artwork as the children shared paper, colored pencils, and crayons to create their own personalized farewell messages and artwork.  None of us have ever experienced a funeral where the children were as comfortable as they were today with Grandma Esther.   We could only believe that the hand-painted casket, now familiar to several of the great-grandchildren who helped decorate it, was welcoming and warm in a way that most of us have never experienced before--especially as children.

For our family, this act of decorating Grandma's casket may be a new trend and become a part of our healing as we learn and teach our children to deal with the inevitable passing of our loved ones.
The inside head-panel included photographs and art from the great-grandchildren. 
An owl, a rainbow, and a birthday cake!
Only the hands of family and children could have done this.