Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — When a casket attendant brought Phil McLean’s casket into the chapel, hundreds of mourners took a breather before the waves of laughter shook.
The casket was a huge cream donut.
“It has masked the sadness and difficult times of the past few weeks,” said his widow, Debra. “The last memory of everyone’s heart was that donut and Phil’s sense of humor.”
The donut is the latest work by Phil’s cousin Ross Hall, who runs a business in Auckland, New Zealand, and is called Dying Art, a custom-made colorful casket.
Other works by the hall include yachts, fire trucks, chocolate bars and Lego blocks. There are plenty of fake jeweled glittering caskets, caskets inspired by the movie The Matrix, and caskets depicting people’s favorite beaches and holiday spots.
“Some people are happy with the brown mahogany box, which is great,” Hall said. “But if they want to scream it, I’m here to do it for them.”
This idea came to Hall for the first time about 15 years ago when I wrote a will and was thinking about my own death.
“How do you want to go out?” He thought for himself and decided that it wouldn’t be like everyone else. “That’s why I wanted a red box with flames.”
Six months later, Hall, whose other business is a sign and graphics company, decided to take it seriously. He approached several funeral directors who saw him with interest and skepticism. But over time, the idea took hold.
The holes start with a specially made blank casket and add more details using fiberboard and plywood. The design uses a latex digital printer. Some orders are particularly complex, such as keels and ladders, cabins, sails, and even sailboats that include metal railings and pulleys.
Depending on the design, the casket retails for around NZ $ 3,000-7,500 ($ 2,100-5,400).
According to Hall, funeral conditions have changed significantly in the last few years.
“People now think it’s a celebration of life, not a memorial to death,” he said. And they were willing to abandon the stuffy practice in favor of getting something unique.
Debra McLean said she and her deceased husband, who were 68 when they died in February, were touring the country in a camper van, and Phil considered himself a lover in every small town. I loved comparing cream donuts.
He thought it was a good donut made with fresh cream, crispy on the outside and airy in the middle.
After being diagnosed with intestinal cancer, Phil had time to think about his funeral and, with his wife and cousin, came up with the idea of a donut casket. According to Debra, 150 donuts were delivered to Tauranga’s funeral from Phil’s favorite bakery in Whitianga, more than 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
Hall said his casket is biodegradable and is usually buried or cremated with the deceased. The only thing he has ever regained is his cousin, he said, because he used polystyrene and molded foam that was not environmentally friendly.
Phil was switched to a regular casket for cremation, and Hall said he would keep the donut casket forever. For now, it remains behind his white 1991 Cadillac hearse.
What about his own funeral? Hall said he changed his mind about those red flames. He emailed the children that he wanted to be buried in a transparent casket wearing only leopard-printed G-strings.
“Children say they won’t go,” he says with a laugh.