A recent blog post by uber-popular funeral director Caleb Wilde (author of “Confessions of a Funeral Director”) resonated with me. He writes: “Death sits in paradox. In it we find impossible co-mixtures of intrinsic opposites. Perhaps, this is why death is the muse of so many philosophers and theologians. … And in death, we find both the repulsive and the beautiful. This tension of paradox in death is perhaps nowhere more apparent in the gruesome and yet beautiful art of embalming.”
In my book, I try to hit upon the same theme:
“And what did I see every day? Not the harsh reality. Naked, dead flesh was handled well away from the public, fluids and stink reserved for basement prep rooms at Kinder’s and Sandberg’s. I was left with the beauty. By the time the dead arrived at the cemetery, the caskets–rich wood, elaborately carved, accented with brass handles–were closed. On top, redolent sprays of roses and carnations. The quiet of Dad’s cemeteries, the dead tucked neatly in the ground, unseen but still there.”
He goes on to write about the embalming process and what a gift it can be to families who are used to their loved ones looking so sick and ill. The title of his post: “When Embalming Is Beautiful.”
I can see where the title could be a turn off for a lot of people, but millions of people love this guy. I wish I knew his secret. I write about death and people run away from me at bookstores! (cf. Post by We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down).
In what unexpected place do you find beauty?
Minnesota Prairie Roots said:
I just read Caleb’s post and had never really thought before about the emotional aspect of being a funeral director. His insight gives me a new respect and viewpoint. Thank you for sharing this.
Perhaps that explains his popularity–people are curious about the emotional lives of funeral directors. I guess since I spent my life around them and have interviewed them for different articles over the years, I have a sense of what they’re going through. But sure, it’s mysterious to many people. I’m glad Caleb is giving those insights.