Guest Blogger: Caleb Wilde, Funeral Director

February 3, 2012

Hey everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve done this.

But there’s a blog you should all be reading.  I mean it.

It’s been over a year since I’ve had a Q and A with a blogger that I want you to know.  But Caleb Wilde will fill a very important niche in your blog reader: the guy-who-handles-dead-bodies-all-day-and-blogs-about-it niche.

Caleb is a funeral director, his blog, the appropriately titled Confessions of a Funeral Director is great, he’s starting to be featured around the ‘nets, and he has a book coming up.

So I had to jump on the Caleb Wilde bandwagon.  We’re talking about dead bodies, conquering the world, and you’ll have the chance to answer the most morbid question ever on this blog.

How did you get into the business of directing funerals?  For anyone out there who may be contemplating this career, do you have any advice for funeral noobs?

I’m a thoroughbred director.  As far as I know, I’m the only one in existence.  My mother’s family owned a funeral home and my dad’s family owned a competing funeral home, making them the Romeo and Juliet of the local funeral market.  On my father’s side, I’m the sixth generation of funeral directors; and, on my mom’s side, I would’ve been the fifth generation of directors.

The funeral business is a calling of sorts, in-so-much as you’ll only make it if you’re in it to care for humanity.  If you’re in it for the money or morbidity or hot bereaved spouses, look elsewhere.

As a funeral director, what’s your day to day like?

As a licensed funeral director, I handle and prepare the bodies.  You may now wash your hands as my death cooties may have transferred from my computer screen to yours.

It’s like rhythmic chaos.  Death itself is a lively bastard and keeps no schedule or pace.  Be it in the middle of the night or Christmas morning, we’re always on call.

Christians are often looking for a really radical, flashy mission from God.  Funeral directing isn’t at the top of any young Christian’s list of great things to do for God.  What’s your mission is as a funeral director?

Nearly all kingdom ministry is local, even when we’re in a foreign country.  All ministry is tedious and mundane.  In fact, if you want to conquer the world, look for the local, the mundane, the hurt and the pain and you may find Jesus in those spaces, ready to work with you and through you.  In fact, Jesus did it with just 12 guys.

In many ways, a funeral home is more intimately connected to the heartbeat of the local community than the local church.  There’s a sense that you, as a funeral director, begin to carry the community’s grief; a task that is much in line with Jesus’ calling.

You know, people are crazy about being green, recycling, being sustainable, but most young people don’t have a plan for what they will do with their bodies when they are done with them.  Do you think people should choose traditional burial, cremation, upright burial, donation, burial at sea, being shot into space?  If we’re going to be “biblical” about burial, should we be “gathered with our fathers” in tombs, like they still do in Louisiana?  I want to be cremated, and then be scattered from the roof of a tall building in the city, but I don’t think that’ll go over well with the people below thinking they are being attacked with anthrax.

Being scattered from a roof top is very incarnational … people would breathe you in from miles away.  You would literally become a part of them.  This gives a whole new perspective to “Go ye into all the world.”

In 2009, the cremation rate in Canada was 68.4% while the cremation rate in the U.S. was 36%.  The U.S. cremation rate by 2025 will hit 58.9%.  So, if cremation is unbiblical, I guess Canada’s going to hell and the U.S. is soon to follow.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s a biblical manner of disposition (burial), but I do think there are biblical principles for remembrance and grief share.  The principles center around this idea: you can’t do death alone.

Churches are obsessed with that phrase “doing life together.”  Maybe you could turn “doing death together” into a cool cliche.
People always have a story of a wedding crasher, or the best man making a drunken toast.  But no one thinks about trying to not make an ass of themselves at a funeral.  How do we make sure we aren’t “that guy” who spoils the big day for the dead person?

One of my most surprisingly popular blog posts dealt with what you shouldn’t and should say to grieving families.  The general principles are as follows: be supportive, not a fixer; don’t tell people how they should feel; recognize the loss; don’t prescribe a time limit for grief; even though you may have experienced death, you don’t understand THEIR grief, so don’t say you understand.  DO say that you love them; do be there for them on a consistent basis; do empathize with their feelings; and do cook them massive amounts of bacon.

What should a guy like me be doing to make sure I have an awesome funeral? 

You should read my blog consistently and keep an eye out for my upcoming book that I hope to have published in the near future.  And although I don’t think I can tell you how to have an awesome funeral, my experiences with Holy Saturday provide a perspective that few are willing and able to see.

Thanks, Caleb!  Be sure you check out Caleb’s blog here, but before you do, here’s easily the weirdest question we’ve ever had here: do you have a plan for your funeral?  How do you plan to dispose of your body?

28 responses to Guest Blogger: Caleb Wilde, Funeral Director

  1. Hummm? How do I plan to dispose of my body?

    Since I’m interested in the Church Of No People, I think I’ll ask my wife to ship my remains to Matt and let him take care of it from there.

    John Cowart

  2. This man is in a great position to speak of Christ to people (although that is not his job).

    Death is the ultimate expression of the law. It’s full impact on the survivors is (hopefully) staring them right in the face.

    A little gospel Word into this bleakness can bring faith to another dying body (we all are to some extent).

    ___________________________________________________________

    My funeral? A Christian funeral( service of Victory) where Christ is the focus…and not me. I want a strong LAW/GOSPEL message from the preacher and NO cute stories about my life. Not during the service anyway. People can remember me anyway they’d like to…but after Christ gets done speaking to them at the funeral service.

    Thanks.

    • Steve,

      This topic (preaching “The Gospel” at the funeral) can be one of the more controversial topics for the families of the deceased.

      I’ve often heard of pastors receiving snarky snail mail because they “preached the Gospel during mom’s funeral service.”

      I wrote about said controversy a couple months ago I’d love to see your interaction my position.

      http://www.calebwilde.com/2011/08/should-pastors-preach-the-gospel-at-funerals/

      • Caleb,

        I think you’re on the right track…sort of.

        I do believe that there is no better time, than at a funeral to preach the law (one of us will be next[of those here in this room])..and then the gospel (what Christ Jesus has done about it – what He has done about death).

        THIS IS job #1 of a preacher. To not preach Christ because a family doesn’t want Him preached, does no one any good. Faith does come by hearing, and the preached Word of God. And, the power of God is in the gospel (Romans 1:16). Better that they be uncomfortable and hear the gospel (have a chance at really hearing it)…than to be comfortable and be lost and damned for eternity.

        If people don’t want a Christian funeral service (that’s what we are speaking of here), then no one can force them. If someone wants our pastor to do a funeral service, they are going to get a Christian service of Victory…or they can go somewhere else. (some do)

        I have been to generic funeral services and I find them vapid, and empty of any real hope. I feel so sorry for the folks there and the lost opportunity to share Christ at a time when they are rioe for receiving Him.

        Thanks, Caleb.

    • I already know what song I want played. I must have ‘And Can It Be.’

  3. As a pastor I have been asked to not “preach” during a funeral. I try to respect every families wishes but I cannot and will not end the service without some scripture and mention of the “good news” in a time of bad news.
    I haven’t read your blog…yet…but I have had some interesting funerals. The “best” ones always have some drinking involved and a just below the surface issue waiting to find an opening (usually about money or such). Nothing like having 911 on speed dial!

  4. For a long time I had contemplated donating my body to a medical school when I died. My mom and my husband have said no, though, saying they would need to have a “proper” funeral with “something to bury”. (Just FYI, when I was in med school we had a memorial service for the cadavers at the end of the year–when an anatomy class gets through with a body there isn’t anything left to have an open casket with.)

    I guess whatever my family wants to do with my dried-up husk is fine with me. Hopefully I’m not going to be there, anyway.

  5. Like Caleb has talked about on his blog: I plan on giving the eulogy at my funeral. Nuff said. =)

  6. I’m one of those guys who’d argue that how we handle the body at death is tremendously significant. God thinks enough of my body that He formed it, redeemed it, fills it with His Spirit, and promises to resurrect and glorify it–I’ve every right to think pretty highly of my body myself…and treat it as precious to God upon death.

    In a perfect world–don’t embalm me (and *certainly* don’t cremate me)–rather, send me out with a great celebration. When the shoutin’ dies down, hoist my casket upon the shoulders of the brethren and cart me out of the church like I’m goin’ somewhere!

  7. Kind of a fun read. It made me smile when I thought about my then 6-year-old peaking behind the little coffin-curtain and announcing that grandpa “had no shoes!” My mother exclaimed, “Well I am glad we had him dressed in pants!”

    I really enjoyed Kathie Walter’ book, Celtic Flames, in which she recounts (in the time of St. Patrick) the faithful waiting to be called home on a specific day. I confess, I don’t know what they did with the bodies, but the spiritual part was exciting.

    I am hoping that my family will celebrate my faith knowing that I am with The One who loves me! I suppose there will be a larger group celebrating the fact that the old pain in the butt is gone.

    I am still trying to think of something cool to do with my ashes. I may hire a sculptor, or have them made into a guitar or a hockey puck – maybe a dog toy. Actually I am donating my body to science, or possibly science fiction.

  8. Having a good friend who is alive because she received a double organ transplant, I’ve already signed the card donating any still-useful bits of me to someone in need. After that, I really don’t care. In a perfect world, I’d be composted, creating life out of death. Somehow, I don’t think that’s legal here. So, cremate me and use my ashes to fertilize a tree.

    I have told my family that I want a celebration, with bright colors, maybe packets of wildflower seeds or bird seed, and happy memories. After all, I’ll be with Jesus, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

    Other than that–they can do whatever they find comforting and helpful. Should they use the occasion to share the gospel to my unsaved friends? Please do!

  9. Our local AFLAC office rents a wing at the funeral home. There is a covered awning separating the buildings. I agree that people trust a local funeral home more than some local churches. Myself? Donate whatever from my body, cremation, and a service in the small room of a local funeral home. I want to pack the small room out.

  10. I am a follower of Caleb’s, hands down one of my favorite blogs. I am pleased that he shared your blog today.

    With that being said, I want to be cremated and mailed to Cali to be pressed into some type of jewel. Preferably a ruby but I am not sure exactly how that works. Then my children can wear me and I can be passed down from generation to generation.

    Can’t you see it? My great great grandson, passing me to his wife with the story of how my ashes were used to make this beautiful synthetic stone?

  11. When my mom died, she was cremated and each of her children carry some of her ashes in a cross. We left room for dad when he leaves this earth. Dad’s had his service planned from the music, who speaks, who is in the worship band etc for years. He does update it when a new song speaks to his heart. For all of us in my family, the most important thing is to have a Gospel centered service. We believe it may be the only opportunity to reach some people for the Kingdom. As for me, anything left worth using is being donated. I’m being cremated and the service will be filled with music – old and new and a message to reach people who do not know Jesus.

  12. Nothing weird about that question. :) People should talk about it more. If you think you’re an organ donor but you haven’t told your family, your organs might not actually get donated to people who need them.

    That’s my primary wish for what happens with my body after I die. Once I’m not “using it,” I want it to be used to improve or even save someone else’s life. Whatever’s left after that I would like to be given to a medical school or medical research facility, if there’s enough for them to use. (Some places want bones only, so I think this is a reasonable possibility even if a large number of my organs are transplantable.) If none of that is an option, I don’t care. My surviving relatives can decide if/how they’d like to commemorate my life and dispose of my body.

  13. I think I would like to be cremated and loaded into shotgun and rifle shells and shot at a variety of wild game to preserve the sportsman in me. Maybe even mixed with some type of live bait and fished with. I don’t know these are just off the top of my head.

    I have been reading Caleb for a while, Matt. Good call on having him here.

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