The Undertaker's Wife: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Laughter in the Unlikeliest of Places
Dee Oliver is the widowed mom of three girls and writes THE UNDERTAKER’S WIFE from her unique position as a socialite widow in southeastern Virginia. Oliver got her experience working as her late husband’s assistant-on-call at his family’s funeral home, which boasted being the largest in that part of Virginia. She writes her memoir from both a comical and a serious angle…and readers will never know which one will be making its presence known from one page to the next.
Oliver opens her book with the sad/sweet recollection of the one-year anniversary of her husband Johnnie’s death. Her middle daughter, Madison, came bounding into the room and wondering (out loud) where the new prospects were hiding. By that, Oliver’s precocious child wanted to see a line of single men lining up on their driveway in the grand hope of dating and subsequently marrying her mom. Pronto. After all, it had been a whole year since he passed away. Oliver, reflecting on the past year and all the grief she has endured, wasn’t so keen on opening up that part of her heart just yet.
"Oliver’s work is not only funny in all the right places, it is also a piercing look at the grief of losing a beloved spouse all too early."
So begins this four-part book that depicts Oliver’s life before, during and after Johnnie’s death. Readers will roar as Oliver shares the highs of dating an older, divorced, handsome and wealthy….undertaker (not doctor as she had planned). Oliver had to be coaxed into considering a date with Johnnie, but once they got better acquainted, she was convinced that he indeed was the man of her dreams. That is, until he sidled up for a few hours at a bar drinking with his old flame, whereby Oliver removed her large diamond ring and threw back a toss that landed directly in Johnnie’s throat and almost killed him. Literally.
Jump ahead a few years, and even though Oliver and Johnnie weren’t an item anymore, they were still fast friends. Remarkably, it took Oliver’s father setting her up with a job in Florida before Johnnie proposed a second time and the two were married in short order. Fast-forward again to the stint of infertility, the vasectomy reversal, and the birth of three girls. Next came some years of intense parenting for Oliver and an over-the-top busy work schedule for Johnnie. Never in a million years did Oliver really think that her husband would die so young or so dramatically. But he did.
After the initial grieving, Oliver went back to school and got her mortuary science degree hoping to work at the Oliver Funeral Home, but it wasn’t to be. So Oliver found herself interning in another part of town working with the African American community…something simply not done given the segregation funeral rites of that area. Oliver is nothing if not tenacious, so she found herself at home (in a funeral home) in the most unlikely of places and learned much about life, grief, and carrying on during her time there.
Oliver’s work is not only funny in all the right places, it is also a piercing look at the grief of losing a beloved spouse all too early. Her book will bring generous amounts of laughs, a few tears, and, quite unexpectedly, some practical preparation information that everyone needs to know about the legalities of dealing with death. Read THE UNDERTAKER’S WIFE for some lighthearted amusement and then reflect upon it for some eternal perspective.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on April 24, 2015