The metanarrative that we’ve been given is that death is entirely negative. We use war metaphors to describe our personal “battles” with terminal sickness as though we believe death is an enemy that needs to be fought. With the “death as negative” story, it’s made it easier for us to abdicate our responsibilities to the dead and dying over to the “death and dying professionals”, who have been trained to care for, beautify and hide the horrors of it.
But, there’s another narrative about death … that death can be beautiful. Death can allow us to see our own mortality, realize our finitude and pursue a meaningful life. For the dying, death can be a release of a slowly deteriorating body. Times of death can allow us to hug our loved ones, allow us to cry with our family and friends and honor a life well lived. Embracing death can allow us to embrace life. And contemplating our mortality can allow us to pursue vitality. And when we embrace death, maybe we can take back death care.
Yes, death can be bad. Yes, death can be negative. But it can also be beautiful. And that alternate narrative needs to be discussed.
Welcome to the conversation.
2014 TEDx Talk entitled “Embracing Death”
Graduate of Northampton Community College’s Funeral Service Program.
Licensed Funeral Director in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since 2007.
Bachelors Degree in Bible from Lancaster Bible College
Masters Degree in Theology from Biblical Seminary
Certificate of Thanatology from The Association for Death Education and Counseling
Currently a post grad student at The University of Winchester, completing the “Death, Religion and Culture” program.
ABC’s 20/20 Interview for Episode “True Confessions”.
NBC News Front page feature, “Funeral director Caleb Wilde is an undertaker for the overshare generation”
TIME Magazine online feature, “Confessions Of A Funeral Director’ is a Blog You Totally Must Read”
The Philadelphia Daily News front page feature, “Oversharing Undertaker Goes Viral.”
Religion News Service online feature, “Funeral director Caleb Wilde posts irreverent thoughts on death” This article was picked up by the Washington Post.
Folha de S.Paulo, Brazilian Magazine Feature.
Why Life Insurance Really Matters in Erie Sense’s Magazine.
The American Funeral Director. June, 2013. “Funeral Blogger.”
The Atlantic: Quoted in “Burying Your Dead Without Religion”
ABC News:Quoted in “Dead People Get Life-Like Poses at Their Funerals”
Forbes: Quoted in “Death of the Death Care Industry.”
US News and World Report: Quoted in “7 Ways to Help a Loved One Grieve”
Philadelphia Inquirer: Quotes in “Themed Funerals Reflect Boomer Generation.”
Church Leaders Top 100 (Book). “Why 99% of Pastors are Universalists … at Funerals?”
Interview on the Drew Marshall Show.
New York Public Radio’s “Sex, Death and Money” feature entitled: “A Funeral Director’s Dead Reckoning”
CBS Philly Feature and Interview “Chester County Funeral Director Uses Social Media To Encourage Conversations About Death”
Annual Editions: Death, Dying and Bereavement 14th Ed., 10 Burdens and Coping Mechanisms of Funeral Directors
Here are some of the featured posts I’ve written:
10 Reasons I’m a Funeral Director at Huffington Post.
How To Take A Funeral Selfie Without Being A Horrible Person at Talking Points Memo
Westboro Baptist and You at RELEVANT Magazine.
Why 99% of Pastors are Universalists at Funerals at Church Leaders.
5 Things Funeral Directors Wish Pastors Knew at Church Leaders
12 Things My Father Taught Me about Being a Funeral Director at funeralOne.