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A Happy Coffin Before You Die

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Nursing home residents and designers celebrate the art of dying

SINGAPORE, Sept. 28 /PRNewswire-Asia/ — 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 of how their final resting places should be.

Ladies without fear. (Left to right) Magdalene, Elsie and Kitty pictured here with their personalized “Happy Coffins” that will house their final repose. (Source: Lien Foundation, Singapore)

Evoking a sense of the body and soul merging with the universe, Singapore-based French artist Gilles Massot’s coffin interprets life before death for the Lien Foundation’s “Happy Coffins” initiative that seeks to break the silence and taboo of Death, and create greater consciousness of end-of-life matters. (Source: Lien Foundation, Singapore)

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.” She smiled and said, “I want to have a matching kebaya (Note 1) to go along.”

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 overturns 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.
Life-giving circle of hope
“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.”
Mr Lee added, “By subverting the conventional notion of death, we hope to liberate mindsets and spark ‘die-logues’ that do not need to be full of woe, but are filled with joy, laughter and good memories.”
Happy Coffins around the world (
Death is no respecter of age, race or creed. To spur greater awareness about life before death, the Lien Foundation invited artists from the global creative community of Eyeka, to create the best Happy Coffins – whether 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.
Mr Lee enthuses, “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.”
About the Lien Foundation (
The Lien Foundation is a Singapore philanthropic house noted for its model of radical philanthropy. It seeks to enhance educational opportunities for the disadvantaged, excellence in eldercare and environmental sustainability in water and sanitation.
About Life Before Death (
The Life Before Death initiative is part of the Lien Foundation’s mission to advocate better care of the dying. It reaches out to the public through social media, art, films and photography. The Foundation also commissioned the first-ever global Quality of Death index released in July.
Note 1: A kebaya is a traditional Straits Chinese garment for women.

Written by asiafreshnews

September 30, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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