The Coffinmaker and the Grace of God

By Nancy Flory Published on March 27, 2018

“I would at least hesitate if you had a magic button I could press that would make this not have happened,” said Marcus Daly.  The coffinmaker explained that he’d hesitate “because there’s so much grace in it and I wouldn’t want to lose that even to get my finger and a half back.”

Daly spoke to The Stream about how he severed part of his thumb and two fingers while making a coffin and the grace that accompanied him through the experience. One finger has been reattached. He owns Marian Caskets in Vashon, WA.

Marian Caskets

In 2005 when Pope John Paul II died, Daly saw the simple, handmade wooden casket contrasted with the opulent architecture of St. Peter’s Square. That moved him. “It just stood out as such a very honest and raw statement about the passing nature of our earthly lives and the eternal glory that we’re called to.”

The landscaper had originally trained as a wooden boat builder, so he had the skills needed to build caskets. “I went to my wife and said, ‘We were going to build simple wooden boats for people. What if we build a different simple wooden vessel for a different journey?'” She agreed.

By 2009, Daly opened his shop, now called Marian Caskets. “It was just a way of allowing the value of every human life to not be overshadowed by opulence and an attempt to blur the reality of death. [It was to] give the people who attend funerals a chance to look honestly at the fact that life is passing and that we have a limited amount of time. We need to be intentional about how we spend that time and how we live our lives.”

The next year, Daly began to inlay the Marian Cross and carve prayers into the caskets. Those give people the chance “to give faith the last word and make sure that God was at the center of their funeral.” 

‘God Will be Glorified’

It takes Daly about 20 hours or so to complete a casket. Mostly just he and his family work on the projects. Now, after the accident, a couple of friends are pitching in. 

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He’s grateful for all of the people who have helped him out. He saw the face of Christ again and again in the people he encountered, from the ambulance driver to the nurses and surgeons. Right away, he thought about God working through his experience. “Okay,” he thought, “there’s something in this, I don’t know what it is. But there’s something in this and God will be glorified.” He tried to keep that perspective as he lay in the hospital. 

The Grace of God

The accident has taught Daly much about the grace of God during suffering. “More than anything, truly, the prayers have sustained me during this experience,” he said. “I didn’t end up taking any pain medication or anything because I just felt so much grace amidst it.” A lot can be done with acute pain. “You can give it back to God, you can offer it up.”

Because of the work he does, he knows a lot of people who are sick and suffering. “To offer my sufferings for them, it completely — it transforms pain. Instead of just building up inside of me it made it flow through me in some ways. There’s lots of suffering in the world, so there’s a lot we can do with our pain besides just agonize.”

He also realized that worrying about the future is pointless. When we worry, we can blow our anxieties out of proportion. In addition, we can’t manifest the grace that God will give us in the time of need. “If you had told me the day before that I was going to have this injury … I don’t know how I would’ve functioned the next day, having that over my head,” said Daly. “But then when it actually happened, God was there.” God will be there in ways we can’t imagine, he added.

Daly is getting back to work, slowly but surely. The doctors have told him it would be a year and more surgeries before he’s really able to use his reattached finger. It’s been quite a Lent. “I’ve never been busier, so it was quite the time for this to happen,” said Daly. “But it’s forced me to ask for help which I was not always great at doing.” But people have stepped up to help and he’s grateful.

“People were praying for me,” he said. “It’s just incredible how much grace God gives us when we need to call on it. … There’s so many good people in this world — thanks be to God!”

 

If you’d like to support Marcus during his time of healing, please see mariancaskets.com/support/.

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