“What if you knew the day of your impending death, what would you do?” So begins Terrence White’s memoir, a slim tome that recounts White’s 27 years in the “death-care industry” and offers readers advice regarding planning for death’s inevitability and living meaningful lives.
Most of White’s experience was on the “supply side,” selling caskets and urns to funeral homes for a global company. White recalls providing caskets for several celebrity funerals, including “America’s favorite Charlie’s Angel” and once for the set of a porn film. He inspected caskets for presidents and paupers alike and viewed them as equally important. The author relates both touching and humorous stories, one in which a casket bottom fell out, leaving the deceased (a large man) on the ground as onlookers “all shrieked and screamed.” After 17 years in the high-stress business, White suffered a heart attack and began work as a funeral home associate comforting the grieving.
Based on his experiences, White advises readers to protect loved ones by pre-planning and paying for their own funerals. He believes that cremation is “disrespectful” and offers advice to funeral officiants. He also liberally dispenses life-enhancing suggestions, all variations on a central theme: Listen, connect with others, let go, and obey the Golden Rule.
The author writes in a relatable manner, tempering his topic with humor. Amusing anecdotes of funeral planning gone wrong and unusual postmortem desires— “put popcorn in my pockets then cremate me” — provide levity.
Unfortunately, this work is neither chronologically nor thematically organized. White meanders through his personal history and related advice, resulting in repetition and reader confusion. Recurrent ubiquitous expressions such as “let it go” and “pay attention to the little things” can seem cliché and sanctimonious at times.
Despite the book’s flaws, White’s unique insight is likely to encourage readers to consider their inescapable demise more carefully, make lifestyle changes while they can, and plan for an event they might prefer to dismiss.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.