Caleb Wilde jokes that he's damned to be a funeral director for the rest of his life. But there's some truth there. He's a sixth-generation funeral director in the small town of Parkesburg, Pennsylvania. He's been doing this for over ten years. In a community with an aging population, this is a stable means of supporting his family.
This wasn't Caleb's first choice. After high school, he worked abroad for a Christian humanitarian group. He's now in graduate school, studying theology. And he's an entertaining writer who keeps a blog called "Confessions of a Funeral Director." He says that in a profession in which he sees things most people should only experience once in their lifetime, connecting with an online audience makes him feel less lonely.
There was a funeral on the day I went down to Parkesburg to visit Caleb and his family. It was immediately clear that the Wildes are pros: affable but calm, soft-spoken but self-assured. The kind of people a town relies on to provide comfort when things seem chaotic or senseless. When we talked, he told me about his struggles with depression, how the exposure to so much death has shaken his religious beliefs, and about the lessons he's learned from some controversial things he's said online.
You can read a full transcript of the interview, and Caleb's blog, "Confessions of a Funeral Director," at calebwilde.com. He also gave a TEDx talk recently about the troubled gap between acceptance and denial when it comes to death: