In Loving Memory

Funeral Flowers

Once Upon a Time...

Hi there, my name is Frances Potter, and I make caskets out of pallets and recycled wood. This is the story of how it all began.

Like many small operators in the death business, I started because of Mum, who died in a rest home at age 95. She had outlived everyone she knew, so there was no point in having a funeral. Her death was expected, so my sister and I could make plans well in advance. I came across the DIYfuneral website, which inspired me to build Mum's casket and to arrange everything myself when she died. I built her casket out of pallets and my sister made a beautiful lining in mauve, Mum's favourite colour.

I made the lid after Mum died. She was very religious so I stayed up until 3am for two nights in a row painting a beautiful cross and an inscription from Psalm 23 on it. I was surprised at how much I was affected - it felt like such an incredible honour and privilege to do it for her. There are a lot of tears mixed in with that paint!

Mum died in 2021, during the second Covid lockdown. The government had decided that only a "licensed funeral director" could drop a body off at a crematorium, so we had to find one instead of taking Mum in my van as we had planned. This annoying regulation turned out to have no legal basis anyway, and was withdrawn later, but that didn't help us at the time. When I started ringing around funeral homes I found that thanks to the monopoly they had been given, all their "budget" options had mysteriously disappeared. Suddenly it was $2,800 to $3,500 for their "cheapest plan" even though we had done everything ourselves. All we needed was a taxi ride for a dead body.

Luckily we found our way to the wonderful George O'Donnell of Private Cremations. George chose to help us rather than exploiting us, by delivering Mum to the crematorium for a reasonable price. We headed off to Eastbourne to have an icecream in her honour as she went up in flames (an icecream was one of Mum's favourite treats). A little fox terrier dog came and wandered around our car as we were eating our icecreams and we felt that was a sign, as Mum adored dogs and had always had fox terriers. God bless you Mum!

That experience led to a firm friendship with George and a firm conviction that I needed to do something to counteract the practices of the corporate funeral industry. I started by making a beautiful casket for a good friend who died in 2022. I persuaded her to employ George instead of a funeral home, so for less than $10,000 her family enjoyed a massive funeral attended by hundreds of people with live streaming and catering, and I got to make a beautiful casket for my dear friend. Another family paid nearly $20,000 for exactly the same thing the same week.

After that I started making caskets for other people. One day I came upon the DIYfuneral website again and found that Robert, who ran it, planned to retire. I decided to ring him for a chat, and to cut a very long story short, I ended up taking it over. On the day I went up to sign the papers and pick up his last casket, this is what the two of us I looked like. Needless to say, I took it as a clear sign that it was all meant to be.

I look forward to educating the New Zealand public for a long time to come. I want people to know that when someone dies, you can take care of it all yourself, and you will be the better for having done it. I look back with pride on everything we did for Mum, and I am very very glad that we did it the way we did.

I wish you all the best in your DIY funeral adventures. And thank you Robert for running this website for 16 years and saving hundreds of New Zealanders who knows how much money!

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