years, Akron author David Giffels joked with his wife,
Gina, about his wishes for a cheap and no-fuss funeral.
simple cardboard box would do.
was during a trip to a funeral home to help pick out a
casket for Gina’s dad that he discovered his wish for
a cardboard coffin could be a possibility. And for just
father, Thomas, overheard one of these subsequent
playful banters between the husband and wife and offered
to help David build his own casket and avoid the wrath
of Gina over the thought of burying her husband in a
began a father-son, build-it-yourself journey that
became something much more than a simple woodworking
project for the former Akron Beacon Journal writer and
now associate professor at the University of Akron.
they toiled over the task in his father’s
woodshop/barn in Bath Township, David grieved the loss
of his mother, Donna Mae, in 2012 and then his best
friend, John Puglia — both within a year.
grief coupled with Giffels turning 50 and his
now-widowed father being in his 80s took a whimsical
woodworking project in a whole new direction.
project became a labor of love, bonding with his father
and a way for David to confront his own grief and
also became the fodder for his third book,
"Furnishing Eternity," released Tuesday by
Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
his previous two books — "The Hard Way on
Purpose: Essays and Dispatches From the Rust Belt"
and "All the Way Home" that chronicled his
family’s restoration of an old mansion in Akron’s
Highland Square neighborhood — Giffels’ latest labor
of love is being met with some critical acclaim.
last week, the book landed a coveted favorable review
from the New York Times.
witty and, like the woodworking it describes,
painstakingly and subtly wrought," wrote Samuel G.
Freedman of the New York Times Book Review.
"Furnishing Eternity continues Giffels’s unlikely
literary career as the bard of Akron, Ohio."
writing a book, Giffels admits now that building your
own wooden casket is not a simple task, particularly
when your partner is a retired engineer and a master
dad is the true spine of the book," Giffels said.
"He starts the book as the oldest person I know and
ends as the most alive person I know."
the five years or so it took to write the book and build
the casket, Giffels said, his dad’s health has
the book has a heavy undertone of grief and mortality,
there’s a lot of humor mixed in, too.
of life’s questions that is answered is what does one
do with a very, very, heavy, full-size casket once it is
finished and waiting for its still very-much-alive
future occupant? Let’s just say you’ll have to read
the book to find that one out.
humorously recounts the uncomfortable visit he made to
Akron funeral expert Paul Hummel — of the funeral home
with the same moniker — to discuss the rules, if any,
involved in making one’s own final resting box.
was debate between Giffels and his dad over whether it
had to be waterproof: "The ongoing joke was me
saying ‘I’m not resistant to rot. Why should it be?’"
short answer is not for the squeamish. It does not have
to be waterproof.
cobbling together pieces of pine and oak purchased at
Home Depot to create his casket and countless words to
fill a 243-page book, Giffels is still at a loss to
explain the mysteries of death — other than it is
inevitable and often unexpected.
said, "It is fruitless to spend too much time
worrying about this."