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Dead in the Happy Coffin -- to celebrate life -- to be remembered as the unique person

Updated on September 14, 2014

Suddenly dead -- and never saw him again!

I was not thinking of a coffin when my live in partner of five years, Bill, died suddenly one morning from a heart attack, I was unprepared and left in a total shock.

It happened in Botswana, where we were guest workers on contract both of us. No family members around to give me support in that situation.

Coping with death was a difficult exercise. I wouldn't know up to this day, who exactly took care to give notice to the relevant people to come and do what had to be done. I only remember that my partner was taken away.

The following day friends took me to the funeral home. The funeral services have done their best -- the funeral Director came to express his condoleances. They wheeled Bill out in a coffin chosen by someone I never knew, probably some work mate, from the existent stock of coffins.

There he was, a person that I knew for five years, dead in a black and ugly box and with no connection at all to himself, to the person as he used to be. He looked like a total stranger, he was a total stranger.

He used to be a fun loving person -- I never knew that sad times are so close to me.

I have tried hard to imagine that the dead stranger was the person that I knew to be Bill, so that I can get some closure for that part of my life.

But I never had a chance to say goodbye, because I never had a chance to see "him" again.

In my mind he is not remembered as the person he was. That image of a dead stranger in the black box still interferes in between us.

That is how I decided to make the Happy Coffin. Not so much for coping with death but for coping with life.

The Happy Coffin was made for the peace of my heart.

This is a real story.

I made myself the Happy Coffin. I hope it looks a bit like me.. I hope that my friends and family shall be able to say good bye to me. I wish to be remembered as the person I used to be.

photo of Bill, the inspiration for the Happy Coffin by Mismatch

The Happy Coffin- a special outfit -- an art project that can serve as funeral art

a special outfit for a special occasion

We want to look our best, for every special occasion in our lives,. We put our best clothes on, we even buy new ones or let them made custom, so that they suit our personalities and our bodies, so that they highlight what is beautiful and best in us. Otherwise we do not feel comfortable and the whole occasion is spoilt and looses meaning.

Why should we be any different for our last but not least, very important moment with our loved ones and people. Even though it is a sad moment -- it is very special. Those sad times are filled with love.

They will remember us as they saw us that last time. The sad times will be gone but the memory of that moment will stay forever. We should look as we used to, special, with our individual personality still apparent, not yet lost, still there for our friends and loved ones to say good bye to the person they knew and remember the person they have known

The Happy Coffin is intended to be a last garment one would wear, for a very special and important occasion. Sad times can be turned positive -- it only takes the right attitude to be strong and find inspiration.

This is how I came to understand myself our passing, following the trauma of suddenly losing my partner. I had a moment of epiphany the next day, when he was put into an ugly black box, same to all other black boxes used for similar occasions and he looked similar to all other people. He had nothing in common with the Bill I knew and loved.

Of course, it was not that simple.

I already had the elements in my mind, without knowing. It is only that all pieces fall into place when that great sore opened my heart to the greater whole that I am part of. I discovered my own meaning in relation with that whole.

Two cultures overlayed in my mind and they gave me the space to find my own understanding of it all.

I had the memories of the Merry Cemetery from Romania, called CIMITIRUL VESEL DE LA SAPANTA, and they mixed with the local African belief that death is not final, and that it is just a part of life itself and never the end of it. One stage of the five stages of grief is the understanding of that.

The result of this spiritual journey is an artwork called The Happy Coffin. It is not a painting on a canvas but a coffin made into a painting. Some would call it a picture coffin.

My own crazy Happy Coffin-detail- the tools of my trade -- for the happy and the sad times as well!

part of my life are the tools of my trade-painting

I am an artist and I hope it shows on my Happy Coffin. I am painting full time. I am not sure that there is an after life, but I want to have my tools of the trade with me on the Happy Coffin. Just in case!

The Happy Coffin-detail- white page of my life where sad times always balance with happy times

The white page is left empty. It was so little I have done

The white paper page on my Happy Coffin represents the emptiness I feel sometimes and also the white promise I left open for myself throughout, like a hope. By the end, hope is what drives us further to our full realisation and should be with us forever.

The Happy Coffin-profile

The Happy Coffin in its glorious full size

The Happy Coffin as it is, in a personalised profile.

I used the reddish brown colour profile, the colour of the Botswana soil.

I used the blue of the sky that is clear for most of the days in Botswana. I hope this is a complete profile of me.

The Happy Coffin-detail-red stilettos

The Happy Coffin with the shoes I never had

I always wished for a pair of red stilettos, It was a wild dream when I was young to have red stilettos, at least for a normal person in my normal social environment, a communist country where everything was sensible, poor and practical. .Wisdom prevented me from buying my dream red stilettos when I could have done so. Maybe we should be less wise?

The Happy Coffin-detail-blue sky

The blue sky of Botswana on the Happy Coffin

The blue sky of Botswana in my heart forever. The blue sky of Botswana is like the colour of freedom and peace. The blue sky of Botswana will carry my love for that country forever. The white page in the blue sky is my life as I will never be able to fill its space -- it is in fact much greater than myself only.

Funeral insurance

Burial cover available for all ages

The best is if we plan our funeral -- just as we would plan any other important event in our life. It is also good to look for ways to fund this final expense. There are various possibilities to plan it. There are forms of insurance that service this need of people that are blessed with loved ones and want to protect them from an extra burden in the sad and difficult moments when one goes through losing a family member. Funeral insurance is different from life insurance in that it's less costly. Read more below about funeral insurance options. Known in some countries by the name of burial insurance, these funeral planning policies are avaialble to people of all ages.

Coffin items used by people that are not dead

Weird items for some, people buy coffin shaped functional objects

There are people that do not mind seeing a coffin shaped item for daily use. Creative producers came up with various items that look like a coffin -- but they are not meant for the dead. One must not be dead in order to use a coffin salt and pepper shaker -- or a coffin bag to carry a guitar. One can rest on a coffin sofa without being dead and buried -- just relax and enjoy the fact that one is alive and well! People have different outlook on a coffin -- some might get frightened, some just laugh or some even like them -- I wish well to all!

The Merry Cemetery
The Merry Cemetery

The Merry Cemetery -- Cimitirul Vesel de la Sapanta

where people are remembered as the characters they used to be

I grew up knowing about the Merry Cemetery. There is a village in Romania called Sapanta. It is famous for its cemetery with colorful tombstones with naïve paintings describing, in an original and poetic manner, the persons that are buried there as well as scenes from their lives. According to the creator of the first painted, merry tombstone, people should be merry and celebrate life all the time -- even in times of someone's death. Those remaining behind should remember the happy moments they had with the one that has died.. The Cemetery became a tourist attraction. A visit to the creative world of the Merry Cemetery might rid one from the fear of dieing.

More photos from the merry cemetery

The Merry Cemetery-headstones
The Merry Cemetery-headstones

The colourful headstones of the Merry Cemetery

colourful headstones depicting personalities of the people resting

The headstones are customized by little poems about the individual character, written in a tolerant and humorous manner about the people buried underneath, celebrating the very individual and core parts of their personality that they used to display while still alive The headstones continue to be made up to this day. People commission headstones from local artisans that carry on the trade..

More about the merry cemetery

The Merry Cemetery-headstones
The Merry Cemetery-headstones

The Merry Cemetery stones of Ioan Stan Patrascu

the stepping stones to my artwork, the Happy Coffin

The cemetery's origins are linked with the name of Stan Ioan Patrascu, a local artist who sculpted the first tombstone crosses. In 1935, Stan Ion Patrascu carved the first epitaph and for a tomb stone in the form of a colorful cross he made for himself. He liked to say that when his time will come, he would want people to remember him as he was alive, fun loving and a jolly good fellow. As of 1960s, the time of his death, more than 800 oak wood crosses came into sight. The colorful crosses became a tradition now in Sapanta, and younger local artisans are taking his trade further.

The Merry Cemetery from Sapanta is one syncretic fact that made me find the emotional link between my home country, Romania, and my foster home, Botswana.

Places to visit -- the Merry Cemetery

Strange coffin or even weird -- it should befit the user

Coffins are the outfit for a last ceremony

A coffin should be special for every dead person -- customized and suit the personality of the departed. What is labeled weird by some people might be exactly what others see as normal. Painting flowers or birds or even favorite objects on a coffin will make it to represent the person that just died and leave a unique image with those who came for a last farewell. We dress up for a wedding too -- and we always want to look different from others in order to mark what's personal about ourselves -- so why should it be not the same for the funeral?

Bespoke coffins from Ghana

After my Happy Coffin has been finished, people who saw it told me about the trend in Ghanato build personalized coffins. It seems to be very popular.

Shop and be merry leave the sad times wait for the future - shop something to enjoy life!

Find the great little stuff that can make you happy as you are alive and deserve to be.Be merry, be happy, enjoy your life!

A funeral urn is an alternative to a Happy Coffin - Funeral urns can also be a place to rest

Funeral urns are an alterantive to coffins used for centuries. There are people that prefere funeral urns -- can be imaginative in their forms; can be colorful or sophisticated or just simple urns to keep the memory of a loved person.

I respect you for your comments. Feel free to write your honest mind on this topic, on the lens itself or even on the Happy Coffin

Dear Guest - what do you think about this really fashionista view about coffins?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Like this idea, I think it creates a feel of the person rather then a plain wooden one! One that remembers and shows the person's unique personality.n

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for this material. It's refreshing to be able to escape the sadness that usually accompanies the topic.

      Please accept my condolences for the loss of your Bill.

      Vic Doke

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A Happy Coffin is a great idea, and a nice way to celebrate a life we love. Cool lens!

    • ColorPetGifts profile image


      7 years ago

      Another one of your lenses I really enjoyed, your Happy Coffin art is amazing! many thanks!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Memories live for long, till the sands of time take over! One lifetime is just a fleeting moment... till death takes us all home! Live strong and God bless. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I like the Happy Coffin although I am not in a rush to order one just now.

    • viscri8 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @aesta1: I am glad that other people also feel that coffins should be personalized, painted or by others means -- according to the person that is wearing it for a last and important ceremony

    • linhah lm profile image

      Linda Hahn 

      7 years ago from California

      I really enjoyed this.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image


      7 years ago

      Fantastic! great lens, well done!!

    • juditpaton profile image

      Iudit Gherghiteanu 

      7 years ago from Ozun

      thank you mismash for the comment on the aspic-lens.i am considering to buy a coffin from you, but first i need a new fridge. However, i like your idea about a happy coffin.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It will console you that coffins now have evolved and some are painted with sports images, travel images, fashion images, flowers or images that best represent the person. I love your red stiletto coffin.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It will console you that coffins now have evolved and some are painted with sports images, travel images, fashion images, flowers or images that best represent the person. I love your red stiletto coffin.


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