Being gifted a book from a friend is always a dangerous thing. What if the book stinks? What if you have no interest in even reading the book in the first place? What if months go by and they ask you if you’ve read it yet and you haven’t or you gave up on page 2? Seriously, gifting books can ruin friendships.
Well, a friend recently gifted me the book Confessions of a Funeral Director: How the Business of Death Saved My Life, and I’m happy to say that not only did I read it, but I loved it!
Confessions of a Funeral Director is written by Caleb Wilde who is a partner in his family business, Wilde Funeral Home, in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania. Wilde is also a popular blogger and has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, TIME magazine, and on NPR, NBC, and ABC’s 20/20.
Whenever I read a book and I am explaining it to someone else, I usually try to put the book in a category comparing it with others of a similar type, but the great thing about this book is that I have never read anything like it. I have no established bookshelf for it to go on with others like it, which made it a fascinating read.
Confessions of a Funeral Director is a pretty candid exploration of death and all it has to teach us about life. Wilde tells numerous stories of his experiences working in a funeral home beginning at a very young age and unpacks his personal and professional struggles with death. I really appreciated how transparent the author was when it came to his wrestling with how to reconcile death and the idea of a loving God.
The book is essentially the authors journey from holding onto a death negative narrative to developing a death positive narrative. A movement away from seeing death as only dark and negative and destructive, and beginning to see the gifts that death has to offer. This movement to a death positive narrative doesn’t take away the pain or loss, but it reframes how we see, experience, and navigate death.
One of the highlights of the book for me was the explanation of the Jewish practice of a death Sabbath. This is a very intentional process of mourning and would bring such health to walking through the loss of loved ones.
Here are a few quotes from the book that stood out to me:
We will all at one time or another be confronted with death, our mortality, and the deeper questions of life. The question isn’t if we will be broken by death and dying and mortality, but how will these inevitabilities break us? Will we be broken open or will death break us apart? (p. 26)
…be present in the here and now, at this moment, in this place, in the ground I was planted, because maybe heaven is here, hiding somewhere behind the fear-inducing tragedies that cloud our eyes. (p. 51)
Tears are like a good confession. (p. 88)
…death and dying creates community by allowing us to touch one another’s humanity. (p. 112)
I know it is completely cliche to say, but I did laugh and cry, and I was deeply inspired by this book. I highly recommend you check this book out, but I do so with a caution. Some of the stories contained in this book deal with miscarriages and the death of children. The book is hilarious in some parts, it asks some powerful and beautiful theological questions in other parts, but it also tells some pretty heart breaking stories that are very difficult to read. Some of the stories brought me to tears because they reminded me of the losses I have personally experienced, and depending on your story, specific stories in this book may bring up some painful memories for you. I think Confessions of a Funeral Director is an incredibly valuable book to help bring people into a healthier view of death, but maybe use some discretion on the timing of when you read this book.
For more information on the author, you can visit his website HERE, and I would also recommend following his often hilarious Twitter account @CalebWilde.
To see a trailer for the book, check out the video below.