Thursday, August 6

Florida Tourism - The Destination Funeral

burial in jacksonville
I was trying to find out what happened to the lovely 33-acre May Mann Jennings Park over on the North Side when I had this great idea for tourism in Jacksonville. It's mostly because Streetview of the park seemed to only show the Evergreen Cemetery, which kind of shares (or overruns) the park. In fact, COJ says the May Mann Jennings Park has "been returned to a natural, undeveloped state." For those of you who don't know government code, this means there's no funding for a park in an industrial/hood area of town. Anyhow, my search for a forgotten gem of a park was thwarted, but the cemetery next door got me to thinking about Florida/Jacksonville tourism, and I wondered if anyone had ever considered a destination funeral. 

I know that Covid times might not be the best scenario for a destination celebration of life, but when it's all calmed down, why not? No one really cares where their body is housed once they're dead, and I think the era of buying giant memorials to impress your neighbors is gone. Why not shack-up eternally in Florida so that your relatives will actually come visit you once in a while? It's not like your family in Flint, Kokomo, and Waukesha really want to visit your corpse in Rochester, just because that's where you decided to spend the last thirty years of your life. 

Jacksonville has a lot of land, and most of it is perfectly suitable for dead bodies. In fact, there are probably hundreds of dead bodies hidden in swampy forests around town. Or in ponds. Rather than fear the unknown, we can embrace it as a community by setting up cemeteries with no real intention of upkeep. It's just a place where Grandma will spend eternity near where the rest of the family can spend a nice vacay in March when it's blizzarding in Buffalo. 

I saw that a local crematorium has a $700 special, but it's probably easier to smoke Grandpa up in Trenton and then save up the ashes for a sunrise on Jacksonville Beach. Unfortunately, the pier is closed, so no chance for a Big Lebowski moment, but you can still rent a boat or wade out with Gramps in a to-go food container in order to chuck him out to the tide. Or, most neighborhoods have woodsy areas where you can pull over with the fam to launch the urn. 

I'm making it sound kind of cold and ridiculous, but this destination funeral concept is a potentially touching ceremony or memorial that could become a yearly destination for the family. Maybe spreading Grandpa's dust at Hole #7 at TPC Sawgrass would be more your speed, with both bunker or water options available. Or maybe replacement wall spindles at Memorial Park have a loved one's name etched on them (and ashes inside them) to be seen for all eternity (or until the next major hurricane). Jacksonville also has tons of Confederate street names that are potentially up for grabs, so you could toss Mom in the gutter along her namesake street, and then when you're in town, you can drive down her road and even get family photos next to her street sign.

It's just more fun to think of death in a positive way, and families will actually interact with the deceased more often if they are in an interesting location not surrounded by hundreds of other dead people. Would you rather spend all of eternity next to the same boring neighbors when you could instead be part of the next freeway expansion? Sure, you could be buried in your LeBaron convertible, or you could be buried in some random Jacksonville location and give the old LeBaron to that no-good son of yours in the hopes that having a nice car might bring him some sense of responsibility. 

It might be Kansas that says that "All we are is dust in the wind," but if you want your dust to be visited by family members in the future, then don't let your eternal remains turn to dust at Kanona Cemetery in Oberlin, Kansas, because none of your loved ones love you enough to make that trip. Ever since Jacksonville fell out of favor with tourists because of Yellow Jack (19th century Yellow Fever in Jax), lots of stuff has come here to die. Like Nick Foles, French settlers, Aaron Zahn, the Superbowl, and CSX. So let's make Jacksonville a destination for the dead in order to bring some living tourists to town. 

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