Frank views at casket open day

John and Maureen Banks inspect one of the caskets on display at Dignity Funeral Services' casket open day on Saturday, where Dunedin residents were offered free measuring and quotes. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
John and Maureen Banks inspect one of the caskets on display at Dignity Funeral Services' casket open day on Saturday, where Dunedin residents were offered free measuring and quotes. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Some people tend to get a bit twitchy when it comes to choosing their own funeral casket, especially when they are still alive.

It is a sensitive subject and, for many, there is no room for dark humour on the topic.

But it did not seem to bother Dunedin couple John (78) and Maureen (73) Banks when they took advantage of Dignity Funeral Services' offer of a free measuring and quote at its casket open day on Saturday.

''We're heading in that direction,'' Mr Banks said as he pointed to the floor, ''and it's something that we've got to talk about.''

Mrs Banks agreed.

''There's no point being sensitive about it. It's got to be done.''

The couple were inspired to view caskets after seeing a television programme recently about a man who made his own coffin and propped it up against his lounge room wall.

He put shelves in it and he stored his liquor in it, but he planned for the shelves to be removed after he died and then to be buried in it, Mr Banks explained.

Mrs Banks said she initially considered the idea of having a casket shaped like a cigarette, ironically so she could have one last smoke as she was being cremated.

''I quite like that idea.''

But by the end of their visit, both had decided on a more sensible casket with images of themselves doing the things they love.

''In photos, you can show a person's character, their personality, who they were in life.

''We want to go out in style and we want a more customised send-off with close friends and family.''

The couple were among dozens of people who attended the open day, which gave Dunedin residents a chance to choose how they wanted to be sent off, rather than leaving the task to their families.

Funeral director and manager Gary Wybrow said these days, it was all about personalising send-offs, and if enough time was given, almost anything could be arranged.

''Long gone are the days where you had a standard casket and a 20-minute service.''

He said there was a wide range of caskets on offer, from decorated ecofriendly cardboard, plywood and wicker, to more traditional coffins.

And if time allowed, Mr Wybrow said coffins could even be made in shapes to create themes, such as a V8 engine, so its occupant could race off to the afterlife.

-john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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