I'm not going to die.
Or at least I am living in denial about my inevitable death.
Maybe you are too.
That's why I didn't quite know what to expect or think as I prepared to speak in Nashville at the National Funeral Directors Association.
Because the subject of death is so uncomfortable for nearly all of us, we are continually in denial. We tend not to think about it and pretend that it's not going to happen.
But the members of the National Funeral Directors Association don't have that luxury. These are people who confront human mortality all the time. Every workday is spent dealing with the nitty-gritty realities of death and the tender feelings of the mourners left behind. You could even say these professionals are at the top of the S Curve of dealing with death.
Not so for most of us. Because talking about funerals reminds us of the reality of death, we don't usually want to talk about funerals either. I knew very little about the industry.
I had a bit of awakening, similar to when I studied Mike Rowe and his work. Funeral Directors are not people we give much thought to, most of the time. But they are people who do an essential job, who get dirty on our behalf. Because we don't really want to need their services, we probably aren't as appreciative of them as we ought to be.
They are the people who are there to be our guide when we are at the launch point of the S Curve of mourning, loss, and grief.
I was humbled to hear them share stories of kindness rendered at a moment of deep pain, when a child has died, for example, the compassion offered and the sense of mission they have for this work.
While speaking with them, I was reminded of Natalie Babbitt's classic of children's literature, Tuck Everlasting. It is an elegant rumination on the role death plays in life with lessons for adults and children.
Here's a summary for those unfamiliar with the story. Winnie Cooper, the young protagonist, has stumbled on the secret of a magical spring of water. Drink from it, and you will be immortal. She meets the Tuck family, who drank from the spring many years before and have been arrested in their development ever since. They don't age, and they don't die. They live an itinerant life, trying to keep their secret, a secret.
There is also an antagonist, a man who has heard rumors of this spring and wants to find it and monetize it. Of course, he wants to drink from it himself. But the Tucks have lived with their unnatural situation long enough to understand that it would be a bad idea.
Pa Tuck wants to persuade Winnie not to drink from the spring.
“Dying's part of the wheel, right there next to being born…. Living's heavy work, but off to one side, the way we are, it's useless too. It don't make no sense. If I knowed how to climb back on the wheel, I'd do it in a minute. You can't have living without dying. So you can't call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road….I want to grow again and change. And if that means I got to move on at the end of it, then I want that, too.”
I want to grow and change–––I hope you do too!
This week, our podcast guest is Jennifer Moss, an award-winning journalist, nationally syndicated columnist, and author of The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It.
When healthy stress levels get out of control, it can lead to burnout, a massive blocker for our S Curves. I think you'll find some useful ideas in our conversation.
As always, thanks for being here!