(220 comments, 875 posts)
I'm a sixth generation funeral director. I have a grad degree in Missional Theology and a Certification in Thanatology.
And I like to read and write.
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Posts by Caleb Wilde
This is a question I’ve asked myself nearly every morning for the past 10 plus years.
It’s weird and depressing and dark. Then again, I’m weird and depressing and — if my wife would let me — I’d wear grey and black clothing every day of the year. To top it off, I’m a mortician.
My mortality contemplation usually takes place in my very small shower.
Surrounded by my son’s toys and my wife’s hair products, I plant my forehead against the shower wall.
With the warm water and the little shelter provided by the WalMart “Mainstay Essentials” shower curtain, for one reason or another, most of my deeper thoughts take place in this little space. Big Bird and Lightening McQueen are my only company.
“I am” I reply to myself.
That used to be my answer. “I am.”
And it’s true. I’m very conscious of the fleeting nature of life. I’ve buried people who have slipped in the shower, hit their head and died. Lightening McQueen could be situated in a pile of hair conditioner and “KA CHOW” I could be a goner.
Or, like my Mom-mom Shirley, I could have an unknown brain aneurysm burst without notice, rendering me brain dead in only a couple minutes.
Financially, I’m ready. I have a life insurance policy in place that will allow my wife to buy all the “Mainstay Essentials” she wants.
Spiritually, I’m a peace with where I’m at and who I am.
My wife and I have had the late night “this is what I want when I die” talks. She knows. She knows I want a home funeral and green burial. And, because of my blogging platform, I’d want the whole process to be documented and edited into a video of sorts.
“I am” used to be my answer.
But recently, I’ve been responding with something different.
When I ask myself in the early hours of the morning, “Are you ready to die?” I respond with a simple, “I’m ready to live.”
I know, I know … it’s cliche. Mind you, these aren’t thoughts that are coming to me as I stroll the ruins of the Pnyx. This is shower time philosophy when my brain is in the caffeine starved limbo of neither being asleep nor being awake.
But it has occurred to me that to live fully assumes you’re ready to die. That once you’ve made peace with your mortality, you’re life becomes that much more precious.
So, I’m ready to live. To take risks. To embrace vulnerability. To love. To extend grace. To forgive. To allow myself to enjoy the things I like. To fail. And to forgive myself.
Next week I’ll share some of the profound thoughts I’ve had while sitting on my toilet.
Humanity has been tossing items into the deceased’s coffins for thousands of years. Bottles of Jack Daniels, cigarettes, lottery tickets, pictures, Playboys, sports jerseys … so it should come as surprise that even blunts get tossed into caskets on occasion.
But, it was a surprise when this happened in California a few years ago:
Three senior citizens had to be hospitalized Saturday after being served brownies they didn’t realized were laced with marijuana.
The victims, who are all in their 70s and 80s, were attending a funeral in Huntington Beach, Calif. During the service, they each tried the pot brownies, which were passed around on a tray according to KTLA.com.
Soon after, the trio were admitted to a local hospital after complaining of “nausea, dizziness, and inability to stand unassisted.”
A police investigation revealed that the tray of ganja goodies had been brought as a tribute to the deceased who, according to the investigators, had used medical marijuana.
This past week we had a funeral for a 23 year old whose alcohol problems caused an untimely death*. During the funeral — which was one of the more powerful funerals I’ve ever worked — the mother of this young man somehow mustered the strength to read the following poem. I don’t know who wrote the poem, and neither did the mother; and, honestly, it’s doesn’t even come close to having great poetic structure.
What it does manage to do is capture the honest, grieving soul of a mother who had to bury her child in a way that I’ve never heard enunciated.
Don’t Tell Me
Please don’t tell me you know how I feel,
Unless you have lost your child too.
Please don’t tell me my broken heart will heal,
Because that is just not true.
Please don’t tell me my son is in a better place,
Though it is true, I want him here with me.
Don’t tell me someday I’ll hear his voice, see his face,
Beyond today I cannot see.
Dont tell me it is time to move on,
Because I cannot.
Dont tell me to face the fact he is gone,
Because denial is something I can’t stop.
Don’t tell me to be thankful for the time I had,
Because I wanted more.
Don’t tell me when I am my old self you will be glad,
I’ll never be as I was before.
What you can tell me is you will be here for me,
That you will listen when I talk of my child.
You can share with me my precious memories,
You can even cry with me for a while.
And please don’t hesitate to say his name,
Because it is something I long to hear everyday.
Friend please realize that I can never be the same,
But if you stand by me,
You may like the new person I become someday.
*I’ve changed some of the details of the funeral I mentioned above in order to protect the family’s privacy. If you know which funeral I’m referring to, please continue to comfort them and pray for them.
Were you driving?
Cell phone rings
Kids in tow
“Mom, what’s wrong?”
Did you pull over?
Did you tell them?
Or did you not?
Moms just crying.”
“Mom-mom just called.
Were you at work?
“This isn’t good.
You thought to yourself
“Dad never calls me at work.”
It goes to voicemail.
“Call me ASAP”
You go to the bathroom
Return the call
Lock the doors.
“It’s your mom . . . .”
Was it in on your couch?
Searching your Facebook newsfeed
You see it.
“It’s a joke”
She can’t be . . .
You text your best friend
It’s not a joke.
Oh, God. Oh, God.
Was it late at night?
Someone knocks on the door
The dog starts barking.
So you thought.
“Are you the father of . . .”
“Yes”, you tell the officer.
“I regret to inform you . . .”
Perhaps you were there
When eyes lost life
You will never forget
That time, place
Where color faded to gray
When clarity became confusion
When life ended suddenly
And a part of you with it.