Author Ryan Copeland

Finding Humor as a Funeral Director’s Son

Ryan Copeland pens Waking Up Dead.

During quarantine in March, Ryan Copeland did what most of us did to pass the time. He spring cleaned his house, getting rid of old stuff as an excuse to be doing something productive. He gathered enough dust, collecting household scraps for a worthy haul to the dump on St. Helena. As he tossed the once revered waste into the appropriate bins, he spotted a familiar face smiling back at him. Cliffton Scott was a former employee at Copeland Funeral Home who worked for Ryan’s father, Curt Copeland, for two decades. They spoke and reconnected, and Ryan left with a headful of fond memories of Cliffton at the business his father ran successfully for 39 years.

The reunion of the two jarred a childhood memory. Ryan was just a boy and thought it would be fun to jump into a newly dug grave pit. The roughly four-foot hole was a little too deep for Ryan to get out. He was stuck and afraid. And then, a shadow appeared and blocked the sun. It was Cliffton’s face. He would become young Ryan’s hero for a lifetime after the morbid rescue.

Ryan visited his mom later that week in March, told the family about running into Cliffton, and also shared this memory. His eldest niece commented, “I’ve never heard that story.” Of the six grandchildren, only three have memories of the funeral home and their grandfather, Curt, before his passing in 2010. And the comment sparked an idea in Ryan’s creative brain. He was going to write a book and call it, Waking Up Dead, a collection of stories of him growing up the son of a funeral director and coroner.

Read the full story here.

Ryan Copeland is the husband of avid Mather supporter, Leigh Copeland. Leigh is with the TCL Foundation which is responsible for most of TCL's activities for and about The Mather School.