Caleb Wilde has grown up with the business of death.
His parents were both children of independent funeral directors, and from their union came Caleb, who despite a healthy dollop of “What am I doing?” being yelled at him from the deepest recesses of his brain, followed the calling buried deep into his DNA and joined the ‘family’ business.
After baring his soul in a series of highly popular blog posts, Caleb has turned his hand to writing this wonderful book which looks at growing up surrounded by the funeral business and those who carry out that often thankless task. His early upbringing in the funeral home is quite odd, definitely not something you’d expect to run into nowadays – I mean how many children do you know that are faced with the concept and rituals of death from such a very early age?
Thankfully Caleb’s family are warm and supportive, although even as a child he can’t fail to see the immense pressure placed on his Parents and Grandparents as ‘the’ local Funeral Directors, and how that manifests itself through the rest of the family, for example – never having a proper holiday as children because someone has just died so you have to turn the car around and go home to deal with it. It’s not a surprise that Caleb has faltered in his self-belief at times, and, as anyone in his situation would, has doubted whether or not he is meant to follow in the footsteps of his forefathers. His faith has been tested, his spirituality has demanded clarification and he has thankfully come out of it with a wonderful voice for sharing his thoughts, feelings and experiences. There’s a very brave and wonderful section of the book devoted to Caleb’s expanding family – I’ll let you read it for yourself but it brought tears to my eyes by the time I’d finished. There’s also a very important and challenging section about the grief process – passive and active remembrance, and ‘getting over’ the loss of someone you loved. I read it and found myself thinking ‘YES! – we do it all wrong!”
Just a couple of points to clarify – this isn’t a ‘warts and all’ scandalous expose of funeral homes, this is an honest and truthful account of life in the job, accompanied with a real eye-opening dash of reality surrounding what an emotional and mental burden it can place upon a person, dealing with the end of life, and the effect it has on those involved, day in, day out. It’s also important to note that although Caleb does talk about his belief, how it changes and reshapes, and how his faith is tested – he’s not preachy. I am not religious, so it didn’t resonate with me in the way it may do a believer, but even so I was intrigued, and quite fascinated to read and follow his thought processes. He is a brave and genuine writer, writing with honesty and openness.
This is a really unique piece of writing – death, spirituality & religion are not ‘fun’ subjects, but Caleb makes them approachable, interesting and most of all, touching. He asks important questions of both himself and life, and he makes you think about certain behaviours – both as a bereaved person and the professional dealing with that situation. Most importantly, there’s a lesson in this book about living life to the best of your ability, being kind to people, and yourself.
If you’ve ever wondered about the beauty that can be sought when the light of life goes out, the healing importance of ritual, and would like to encourage the normalisation of death and grieving, then you’ll enjoy this book. If you haven’t, perhaps you should start?