Posts About Me
150 Year Old Reputation for 15 Minutes of Fame?
Over the past month I’ve been featured by NBC, CBS and the Facebook god George Takei (oh myyy). And while the NBC and CBS posts were rather innocuous, this post has been making it’s rounds. Like, it’s everywhere.
For those of us who watch “The Walking Dead” and other Zombie films, the joke is mostly funny. For those who aren’t interested in the zombie genre, though, it’s created some discomfort. Being that the post has gone viral, millions have seen it and not everyone has liked it.
One local person (who refused to give us their name) called the funeral home and demanded that I take down the post (by the time they called it was too late and the post had already gone viral).
Another person actually reported me to the Borough Council of my home town. Thankfully, the Borough Council realized my post was in jest and didn’t kick me out town.
But when a friend that I really respect was uncomfortable with that particular tweet, it made me reflect upon my platform. He constructively and kindly let me know what he thought via a Facebook message, and it provided me with a moment of clarification, which I communicated with this response:
So sorry. It is certainly something that I would never ever consider doing in real life. I understand why the thought of this would upset you and sincerely apologize. It has been a difficult process for me to understand how I can engage my generation in the death and dying conversation without being over the top. This is a process that I have continually modified based on constructive feedback. I thank you for being willing to offer me your thoughts and do know that I am very sorry this tweet called into question our trustworthiness. I will learn to do better.
I just want to make some things clear: I am first and foremost a funeral director who has the utmost respect for those I serve. And I would never, ever knowingly do anything through social media that would break the trust of my community.
Through six generations and over 150 years, our family has earned the trust and confidence of our community and I would NEVER trade that trust for anything. I would NEVER trade our reputation that my family has built for 15 minutes of personal fame. I have too much respect for my family and too much respect for this wonderful community that we serve.
So, why do I engage in social media? And why are some of my posts “edgy”?
My goal with social media is simple: I want to start a conversation about death. And, as a funeral director, I’m well suited to initiate the discussion. We need to talk about death, we need to embrace it, we need to understand it better and – at times – the best way to start the conversation about an uncomfortable subject is through a little bit of humor.
This whole death and social media thing is kinda unique. We’re doing it together. We’re learning. And we’re going somewhere. We’re learning how to live life better through a healthy perspective of death. So, learn with me. I’m trying my best.
12 Things My Father Taught Me about Being a Funeral Director
1. Lead by Example.
Like many new fathers, my first born has caused me to re-evaluate myself and my priorities, making me feel nervously unprepared to be the example that I now am.
In many ways, I’ve emulated my father. Though I may not consciously know how to be a great father, there’s a real sense that I can trust the instincts my dad’s instilled.
2. Being Caleb is better than being Superman.
My son – if he so chooses – will be the 7th generation of Wilde funeral directors. Not only am I the 6th generation funeral director on my paternal side, but I would have been the 5th generation on my maternal side had my mom decided to join her father’s funeral business. I’m a thoroughbred funeral director.
After 11 generations of my progenitors breathing formalin fumes, I have yet to develop a superpower. And even though I’ve wanted to be in the linage of Superman since I saw Christopher Reeves don blue tights, I’m content just being Caleb. After all, it’s Caleb that my dad has always loved.
3. Presence is better than Presents.
The greatest gift my dad ever game me was his time. As a funeral director and a new father, I realize how hard it was for him to make time for me. He could have worked harder, made more money and given me cooler things, better cars, etc. Instead, he worked less, made less money and gave me himself.
4. Service over Business.
People are an end in and of themselves. Money is a means. This I know, for my father showed me so.
5. Respect Your Elders.
My grandfather was born on the second floor of the funeral home and was embalming bodies by the age of fourteen (so he says). For dramatic effect, Pop-Pop secretly hopes he’ll die while embalming a body.
Upon starting at the funeral home nearly a decade ago, I’ve studied my grandfather like a text book and, as a result, I think I could pass the “Good Funeral Director” test. Oddly enough, it’s by respecting my elders that I’ve been prepared for the future.
6. Smile. Look people in the eye and shake their hand.
It’s a lost art. But, it’s an art that I’ve regularly seen my dad practice.
7. Everyone Has a Story.
My dad is one of the most tolerant people I know – partially because he has an understanding personality and partially because the funeral business makes tolerance a necessity. While others pigeon hole certain groups that are “different,” I listen to their story. I want to hear their story because I’ve always seen my dad be more interested in people than kowtowing to the interests of his tribe.
8. “If you did something wrong, it’d be in the newspaper the day before you did it.”
At first, I wasn’t a fan of having a legacy I didn’t create. Everybody knows that I’m a Wilde. And everybody has an expectation that I SHOULD be just like the rest of my family. When I was younger, the “Wilde” name was a restraint, now I wear it – not as a burden – but as a badge.
Integrity is what you do when nobody is looking. In funeral service, there’s many times when “nobody is looking”. And every time I’ve secretly watched my dad, I’ve seen him doing right … whether at home or at the funeral home.
10. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
How many times has my present strength been arrested by worrying about what’s ahead? Be present … we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
11. Laugh as often as you can.
Whether it was watching The Three Stooges, Monty Python or his propensity to flatulate, my dad always found a way to make me laugh.
12. “Not everybody is as lucky as you are.”
Fathers are rarely neutral figures. They’ve either been monumental failures or, well, father figures. I’m lucky. And while not everyone is as lucky as I am, everyone has the opportunity to be the best they can be and make their son or daughter as lucky as I was. And my hope for this my first Father’s Day is that my son will one day be counted among the lucky.
Holla Atcha Boy! I’m a Thanatologist!
Two weeks ago ABC’s 20/20 came out to Parkesburg and filmed me on site at the funeral home for about an hour and a half.
Somebody at the studio had been reading my blog and thought I’d fit into a segment called “True Confessions.”
As a condition to the interview, I asked the producer to be respectful toward my family’s business as I didn’t want our 160 year old reputation to be sullied in a two minute nationally televised TV show. They accepted my stipulation, so I agreed to the interview.
I only told a couple friends that 20/20 was interviewing me (actually, I don’t think I told anyone … my immediate family did most of the telling … and I told them not to tell too many people because I was afraid I’d look like a moron). It aired last Friday and I think one or two of you caught it and gave me a text/tweet/facebook shout out.
John Berman was the interviewer. He was a pleasant person. Harvard educated. A New England sports fan. Very relaxed and generous in person.
The producer was a tall, pensive, well-spoken man. At one point I say, “People sometimes buy (caskets) out of guilt.” That line was at the producer’s prompt. The association between guilt and an expensive funeral fancied him.
The camera and sound crew were all local guys who were independent contractors. Some were out of West Chester, others out of Philly. And I liked them all … the main cameraman was especially entertaining (did you know that professional cameras start at around $70,000?).
I had my suit dry cleaned, bought a new dress shirt and tie, created and purchased “Wilde Funeral Home” t-shirts for all the crew and had one sleepless night all for two minutes of national televised face time.
Even though they forgot to post my twitter handle on air, it was a good experience and so far (based off the responses I’ve received) the Parkesburg community seems to be proud of the fact that 20/20 came out to Parkesburg.
Here’s a couple behind the scenes shots.
Here’s the video.
On Being the Author of Relevant Magazine’s 2011 “Most Popular Article”
I have my twitter account synced to my cell phone, which Nicki hates because every time I receive a new twitter follower, my cell phone beeps. And although I don’t have numerous twitter followers, every once in a while …
In the middle of a funeral: “Beep!”
In the middle of dinner: “Beep!”
In the middle of the night: “Beep!”
I’d turn my cell phone off, but I’m on call 24/7, every day of the week so I have to keep it on.
This past Friday night at around 11 PM my phone starts going off about every 30 seconds, notifying me of a new twitter follower. After about a dozen new twitter followers I begin to get slightly suspicious and start doing some Twitter research to see why so many people would want to follow a funeral director.
And then I see this:
“I wrote that”, I thought to myself.
I was pretty sure it was a mistake, so I replied:
To be fair – for those of you who aren’t familiar with StumbleUpon – the effect of SU can produce a false positive in that the hits SU produces are more quantity and less quality. Yes, I beat out Rock Star Rob Bell’s exclusive interview with Relevant … but let’s be serious, I’m just a funeral director.
But still … more hits than an exclusive interview with Rob Bell … at the height of “Love Wins”?!?!
I went to bed with my head expanding with hot air as I pondered this question:, “Hmmm … what perks does this accomplishment entitle me to at the Funeral Home?”
Maybe a couple “Get out of Doing Morgue Work” passes.
Could I get a company car that’s a Lamborghini converted into a hearse?
Possibly I’m entitled to a golden Trocar with my name engraved in it.
Or, maybe they should make a prize that’s given to the most famous funeral director in Parkesburg, and give out the inaugural trophy to yours truly.
Instead of a trophy, maybe the prize could be a diamond encrusted, genuine leather morgue apron that says, “Most Famous Funeral Director in Parkesburg 2011.”
Actually, though, I’m more like the fifth famous funeral director in Parkesburg. As we’re the only funeral home in Parkesburg and the rest of my family is by far much more well known than me. People still say, “Oh, you’re Bill’s son” or, “You must be Bud’s grandson.” Few here in Parkesburg know my first name.
I couldn’t in good conscious take that diamond crusted apron of awesomeness.
Then I speculated, “Could Rob Bell call me up and want to prearrange his funeral with me?” Then I could hold the title as “The Only Man to Bury Rob Bell.”
Maybe the Relevant post entitles me to a raise at the funeral home … and at this point in my late night day dreaming I started to fall asleep. Only to be awoken early the next morning (New Year’s Eve) by the sound of my buzzing phone.
“Hellooo” I said in a voice that was attempting to mask the fact that I just woke up. It was my dad on the other line and I could tell his tone that he was a step away from being peeved.
“Didn’t you get my text?” he asked.
“No.” I responded, “My phone was on vibrate last night.” I said this while thinking to myself “it’s on vibrate because I’m so freakin famous.”
“Well, I texted you some time ago. We have a call at the hospital. Get your clothes on and come to work.”
Reality sets in. The expanded cabaza begins to deflate. No diamond encrusted apron awaits me. No “Get out of Doing Morgue Work” passes. And since I’m late, there will definitely be no raise.
This “most popular article” news comes at about the one year anniversary of me deciding it’s time to get serious about writing/blogging.
That commitment to blogging coincided with me finding Bryan Allain’s blog and buying his book. Now, a year later, I’m beginning to touch a small segment of the world where Jesus likes to dwell … with the weak and the broken. I want to see people worship God through their sorrow. That’s why I write.
Maybe next year I’ll get my diamond studded morgue apron.