There are some Happy Coffins from Singapore challenging death's taboos. Today, designer coffins deck a nursing home where three residents fulfill their pre-departure wishes about how their final resting places should look.
"Without any fear," Elsie Chua said, "I am not afraid to talk about my eventual departure. It is very meaningful to be able to shape the design of my coffin and see it before I die. I want to have a matching kebaya to go along."
A kebaya is a traditional Straits Chinese garment for women.
The art of dying
Elsie's wish was granted through an initiative between the Lien Foundation, a Singapore philanthropic house and St Joseph's Home and Hospice. The Happy Coffins project seeks to overturn the stigma of death and transforms the coffin from a symbol of fear, dread and grief into a positive and life-affirming expression of art. Besides Elsie, two other residents, Kitty Fogh and Magdalene Khoo, also received their own customized coffins created by FARM, a Singapore arts creative society. In addition, a multi-disciplinary artist was commissioned to render his interpretation.
The Happy Coffins initiative is part of the Foundation's Life Before Death campaign that seeks to get people thinking and talking about death and dying, and to highlight the urgent need for better care for the dying.
"The name 'Happy Coffins' may be like an oxymoron. But its very antithesis captures what we seek to do," said Mr Lee Poh Wah, CEO, Lien Foundation. "We are turning the coffin from a supreme negative symbol of death into a creative canvas for reflection and inspiration, and the positive celebration of life."
"Instead of gloom and doom," Sister Geraldine Tan, Administrator, St Joseph's Home and Hospice said, "This project, though seemingly about death and dying, is really life-giving. It has created a non-threatening platform for our residents to share their lives and talk about their pre-departure wishes and hopes."
'Die-logues' and Happy Coffins around the world
Death is no respecter of age, race or creed so to spur greater awareness - what Lee punned as 'die-logues' about life before death, the Lien Foundation invited artists from the global creative community of Eyeka, to create the best Happy Coffins - for themselves, a loved one, or an inspiring person. A record 733 entries came from 37 countries for this international coffin design competition. More than 75% of the participants produced designs for their own coffins.
Lee said, "We have designer clothes and chocolates, so why not designer coffins that uniquely reflect our lives, personalities and dreams. The individual life story behind each personalized coffin will be a poignant talking point at funerals."