The Grim Sweeper

Making caskets is fine. But who's going to clean up this mess? Inside their light, fragrant workshop, a handful of monks are hard at work. They're planing. They're ripping. They're joining, gluing, sanding, and finishing coffins, caskets, and urns made to order, then fitting them with shiny metal handles and discrete brass plates that say "Trappist Caskets, New Melleray Abbey."

Death is a way of life for these Iowan monks. They do everything from logging the trees on their extensive timberland to lining the caskets with white muslin. "There's nothing pretentious or false here," says general manager Sam Mulgrew. "It's straightforward—just heavy wood and slow, loving workmanship."

The Trappists (1-888-433-6934; trappistcaskets.com) offer reasonable prices and provide an alternative to the mass-produced caskets that dominate the market. The caskets are accepted by all U.S. funeral homes and cemeteries. They can be shipped on time anywhere in the country. Trappist Caskets are also suitable as low coffee tables until the time comes for their final use.

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