Tuesday, February 13, 2007


This story just creeps me out.

A Dutch primary school teacher dying of cancer is overseeing one last project among her pupils: they are making her coffin.

Eri van den Biggelaar, 40, has just a few weeks to live after being diagnosed last year with an aggressive form of cervical cancer.

She asked the woodwork teacher, a friend, to build a coffin for her. "Why don't you let the children make it?" replied Erik van Dijk.

Now pupils who normally plane wood for baskets and place mats have been helping with the finishing touches. They have already sawed more than 100 narrow boards and glued them together. Only the lid needs to be completed.

The coffin now stands in the middle of one of the classrooms.
Yes, I DO think this is morbid. I'm not the namby-pamby kind who thinks that children should remain swaddled and cushioned from all the ugliness of life, but I just feel that this is wrong. Pope John Paul II's "culture of death" comes to mind again - it's not enough that children are becoming an endangered species among Western European people, the ones that they do have must now be drawn into the atmosphere of death while they're still young. And these ARE young - primary school children, aged 4 to 11! I know the parents consented, but I think they were wrong. In fact, I'll bet they consented with the thought that the children wouldn't really understand anyway, so what harm could it do? I think it WILL do harm. A coffin they've helped build is a real thing; when it goes under the ground, and they're told that Mrs. Biggelaar is inside it, and now it's gone forever, I think it will lead to some really disturbing thoughts.

Why didn't they have the children participate in making a nice memorial bench to their teacher? Something that they'll see every day and remember, along with her? Most schools erect something like that anyway, when one of their people dies. Or a birdhouse, or SOMETHING that continues into life. Yes, I've heard of "The American Way of Death", but there's the opposite extreme too - like the Brontës, living with the church graveyard right outside their windows, and watching as one by one they were all carried to be buried in it. That's not being healthy and realistic, that's just morbid.


Blogger Ellie M said...

So... do they get graded on this??

12:12 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Gee, I hadn't thought of that. How'd you like to have to live with the shame of having failed Elementary Coffinmaking?

1:36 pm  
Blogger Kasia said...

And the added shame of having made a really bad coffin for your teacher to eternally rest in?

2:34 pm  
Blogger who, me? said...

It appears that something about this crowd, especially the Dutch, has caused them to fall in love, creepily, with death, and now they invite their children (children!) to the party. Perhaps a final detonation of the effects of the years of WW II?

9:35 am  

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