My Review - 4 Stars
For honest reflections about death and grief, I often turn to Caleb Wilde. In his memoir Confessions Of A Funeral Director, Caleb’s honesty about his doubts and anxiety makes his insights that much more compelling. He suggests (and I agree) we adopt a death positive narrative and shows how society’s death negative narrative and the church’s heaven narrative actually hurt us and our ability to mourn.
Through examples from his professional experience, as well as his own personal losses, Caleb illustrates the importance of grieving well, as well as a healthier perspective about death and dying. One of my favorite stories was about Sam, an LGBTQ woman who attended a church where she was not allowed to become a member. Even though her sexuality meant she could not fully be a part of her church, she expressed wishes for her funeral to be there. The way the pastor and Sam's family, many of whom were not affirming, responded to this wish was incredibly moving.
Caleb muses that death is the common denominator that helps us connect, even when we don't see eye to eye. It can bring us together or it can tear us apart. But when we allow it, death helps bridge our differences and reminds us that love is the reason for all things. This chapter might be the reason to read this book.
We need to have more conversations like this. We need to talk about what really matters. We need to talk not only about the kind of life we want to have but the kind of death we want to have. This book is a great step in helping us have that conversation.
I appreciated how Caleb covered many different kinds of loss, including infertility and adoption. He also emphasizes the importance of proximity and presence in times of loss, which might be the best takeaway anyone could receive. It's never about having the right thing to say but simply showing up and being there for one another.
I can no longer remember how I first came across Caleb's blog several years ago but I do remember thinking two things: 1) this guy needs to write a book and 2) we need to be friends. While Caleb and I have yet to meet in person, we did become internet friends and so it was especially thrilling to finally read his book. I commend it to you.
“Changing the world sometimes involves massive movements, but mostly it can be accomplished through small acts of presence, listening, and kindness.” p. 52
The blogger behind Confessions of a Funeral Director—what Time magazine called a "must read"—reflects on mortality and the powerful lessons death holds for every one of us in this compassionate and thoughtful spiritual memoir that combines the humor and insight of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes with the poignancy and brevity of When Breath Becomes Air.
Death. It happens to everyone, yet most of us don’t want to talk about this final chapter of existence. Sixth-generation funeral director Caleb Wilde intimately understands this reticence and fear. The son of an undertaker, he hesitated to embrace the legacy of running his family’s business. Yet he discovered that caring for the deceased and their loved ones profoundly changed his faith and his perspective on death—and life itself. "Yes, death can be bad. Yes, death can be negative," he acknowledges, "but it can also be beautiful. And that alternate narrative needs to be discussed."
In Confessions of a Funeral Director, he talks about his experiences and pushes back against the death-negative ethos of our culture, opening a thoughtful, poignant conversation to help us see the end of life in a positive and liberating way. In the wry, compassionate, and honest voice that has charmed his growing legions of blog readers, Wilde offers an intimate look inside his business, offering information on unspoken practices around death such as the embalming process, beautiful and memorable stories about families in the wake of death, and, most importantly, a fresh and wise perspective on how embracing death can allow us to embrace life.
Confessions of a Funeral Director is the story of one man learning how death illuminates and deepens the meaning of existence—insights that can help us all pursue and cherish full, rich lives.
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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy from HarperOne. Opinions are my own. Affiliate links included in this post.