Craftsmanship and creativity help us along every step of our Orthodox Christian journey, even at death. There has been a recent renewed interest in parishes around North America to organize burial services outside the conventional funeral home and cemetery system. The emphasis of parish-based ‘death care’ is centered around our beliefs regarding how our bodies are treated after death and our religious ceremonies. Rather than having our bodies embalmed and sealed in a metal casket, away from the earth from which God formed us, there is the choice to have the body placed whole in a wooden casket that will naturally decay. Many woodworkers are stepping up to fill this need for a simple, yet beautiful choice in how our bodies will be honored at death.
Rick Eich, of Greenville, South Carolina, is one such talented woodworker. When his parish, St. John of the Ladder, OCA, formed a burial society several years ago, he saw how his skills would be useful for his fellow parishioners. Though he is a tradesman by day, Rick has invested in building his workshop to include professional grade cutting machines that can quickly turn flat stock wood panels into the components for caskets. He has designed a ‘flat pack’ casket which can be shipped and then stored at a parish until the need arises. All that is needed to build the casket is a screwdriver. As much or as little decoration can be added to the caskets, such as a three bar cross on top, etched lettering, etc. To go along with the standards of ‘green burial’, he also designed caskets that do not need metal screws in assembly. You can watch how the casket is assembled in this video.
One of the motivations for Rick for supplying caskets to parishes is allowing families a more cost effective option for burials. Aside from the plot, caskets are the most expensive and overbuilt item involved in a modern funeral. Pre-ordering a casket and assembling as needed will go a long way to easing the expense burden and planning stress on families. Plain caskets also allow local artisans to add embellishments in as much as the person wishes.
Besides caskets, Rick is also offering icon mounting services. He takes a high quality image and laminates it onto a wooden board with a durable finish. This is a useful service for those of us who have obscure patron saints!
You can contact Rick at his website below.