How did you get involved in the funeral business?

I married a fourth-generation funeral director and into a family funeral business which dates back to the Civil War. Soon after Johnnie and I were married I went to work for him, proud of his desire to help every family that walked through the doors. Our jobs quickly became a lifestyle--our three daughters learned to jump rope with the pew ropes in our chapel and navigate headstones in our cemetery on their first bike rides. After Johnnie died I went back to school and earned my mortuary science degree, to both honor Johnnie’s memory and carry on his legacy of helping those in need. I hope, in many ways, this book will accomplish that, too.

Why do you think people are so hesitant to prepare for their own passing?

Understandably, no one really thinks they are going to die--it's like the unexpected pregnancy--it happens to everyone else besides you. It happened to me…the wonderful surprise third child. After that, I knew death was certain!

While death doesn’t need to be at the forefront of your life, unless, like me, it is also your business, it is an inevitable destination for us all. Would you take a once-in-a-lifetime vacation without preparing? Of course not, and you shouldn’t approach your passing without some preparation, either.

Why do you feel it’s especially important for spouses to prepare to live without the other?

Marriage is probably one of the best things that ever happened to me, besides having children and getting Botox. The downside to marriage is that it just doesn’t last; we believe in "happily ever after,” but the reality of that is just improbable. I am not referring to divorce--I am referring to death. Marriage starts at the same place and time but it doesn’t end that way. Very rarely do two people exit out of the world at the same moment.

Making sure your spouse has all the information he/she needs to keep up with daily life is a powerful way of saying “I love you.” It’s not roses or champagne, but knowing the code to the safety deposit box or name of your attorney is better than poetry in a time of need.

Losing someone you love is never easy--but having the courage to prepare your spouse for the small things (what that ring of keys unlocks, how to start the lawnmower) makes the grieving process just a bit easier.

In the final chapter of your book you talk about your own “trial run” at death…

Most people won’t ever get the chance to see their preparation pay off. I’m fortunate to know that when I’m issued my first class ticket to heaven all my affairs are in order. Everyone deserves the peace of mind that comes with going out in style.

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Who's Talking

Boyd M.

"Mrs. Oliver has given us the list of "What to Do" before one spouse (or close family member) passes so the survivor will know what to do, especially during such a vulnerable time. She had to learn the hard way as her husband died suddenly one night. Written with character, grace, charm and humor, she has taken a rather morbid subject and turned it into pleasurable reading. From putting both names on the utility bills and bank accounts, picking out burial plots, what to say (and not to say), to telling your spouse about each key on your key ring, she has itemized the things that everyone needs to know. Then she tells of the Do's and Don'ts regarding what the survivor's first year or so after passage of their loved one. Great advice!"


The Undertaker’s Wife

Part memoir, part how-to book, The Undertaker’s Wife offers insights on grief, survival, and the ever-present faithfulness of God. Sometimes poignant, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, Dee’s story helps readers prepare for one of life’s only certainties–and do it with wisdom, grace, and a healthy dose of joy.