Deona (“Dee”) Branch married into the funeral business when she wed Johnnie Oliver, a fourth-generation funeral director, in 1984. She knew that her husband did not belong just to her; this became clear as early as their first date, when Johnnie had to scoot out “for just a minute" --- and he came back with a corpse.
After Johnnie died suddenly in 2007, Dee went back to school and earned her mortuary science degree so that she could carry on his work. Barred re-entry into the family business by a jealous brother-in-law, Dee found herself fully credentialed, armed with nearly 30 years of funeral experience --- and utterly jobless. None of the “white” funeral homes would have her, for fear of alienating the venerable H.D. Oliver funeral clan. Thus it was that --- despite having an iPhone full of well-connected business leaders, political luminaries, garden club mavens, and countless other very rich, very white, and very certain-to-perish friends --- Dee finally decided to cross the racial divide in perhaps, the most segregated industry in America. She accepted an internship at Riddick’s, a funeral home staffed entirely by, and for, black people.
Part memoir, part how-to book, THE UNDERTAKER'S WIDOW might also be described as The Blind Side --- in reverse. Dee’s insights on the common ground of grief, survival, and the ever-present faithfulness of God (to all of us, regardless of our race, religious upbringing, or socio-economic background) will help readers prepare for one of life’s only certainties --- and do it with wisdom, grace, and a healthy dose of joy.
The Undertaker's Wife: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Laughter in the Unlikeliest of Places