Michael Yates’ passion for working with wood arose from the wood’s accessibility, its palpable presence and the hope that his efforts would last. But when his grandmother requested that he build her casket, the stability of oak collided with an evocative “conversation” with impermanence, death and the inevitability of absence. In spite of his initial fear and resistance due to our culture’s steadfast avoidance of the D-word, Yates eventually agreed to build the casket and began the real work of constructing a genuine relationship with life, death and sawdust.

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