A Funeral Director Goes to Disney World

As far as I am aware, there has never been a funeral at Disney World. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it has happened yet.

However, there are plenty of people out there who have been both to funerals and to Disney World. There is a slightly smaller group of people who work in the funeral profession and who have been to Disney World. I am one of these people. In the midst of walking the crowded streets of Disney World last week, I couldn’t get funerals off my mind. Granted, there are marked differences between the two:

Disney World is loud. Funerals, typically, are not.
Funerals are sad. Disney World, typically, is not.
Disney World has cotton candy. Funerals, typically, do not. (Although I have served banana popsicles at a funeral).

You get the picture.
The similarities, however, are a bit more interesting.

Hurry Up and Wait.
Disney World, and most theme parks for that matter, are known for long lines and lots of waiting around. Turns out, so are visitations and funerals. People who attend visitations and funerals know this. And I know this because I see another side of the story…..we funeral professionals wait around a lot. We wait around on people to show up, and on paperwork to come in, and on a multitude of other things that simply have to be waited on by someone. Our unwritten motto is, “Hurry up and wait.” We rush to remove a body. Then we wait while the family decides what to do. We start the embalming process. Then we wait to let it all sink in. We rush, rush, rush to get to a church on time with all the right things. And then we wait. Until it’s time to rush, rush, rush to get all the things to the cemetery, where we’ll just wait again. There seems to be lots of people watching and quite a bit of small talk in both situations. The only difference I can find is that waiting at Disney World usually leads to a fun roller coaster. Funerals, not so much.

Weather Dependent
Rain, snow, sleet, shine. Weather is so uncontrollable. Ever been to a rainy funeral? What about to a rainy day at Disney World? They are both pretty bad. Have any sunburns that you lived to tell about? Yeah, those happen at gravesides too. Splash Mountain is not so fun in chilly temperatures. Neither is working in the dark twilight of a cold winter’s night to get a grave filled after a late funeral. Still, I’d rather have bad weather at a funeral than at Disney World. Just saying.

One stroll around Magic Kingdom and you’re guaranteed to hear some children crying. Meltdowns happen. I get it. Trust me, I get it. People cry all the time at funerals. The tears are nothing to be ashamed of in either case, but I find funeral tears slightly more tolerable than Disney World tears.

There are lots of moving parts at Disney World. So it goes for funerals. I lost count of how many buses and ferry-boats and mono-rails I boarded over the course of the short vacation. Each one was headed somewhere I needed to go and would arrive there within a fairly reasonable amount of time. It makes one marvel at the amounts of energy expended and consumed in that small corner of the world. It feels the same way at funerals sometimes. Hearses, family cars, flower vans, lead cars, clergy cars, dump trucks, vault trucks, church trucks, removal cots, etc. The funeral business has a lot of vehicles, each with a very specific job, and usually on a very specific schedule. Disney Parade…….Funeral Procession. Think about it.

Behind the Scenes
This one is worth saying again: there are lots of moving parts at Disney World. I had on adult eyes while visiting the parks this time, and as I watched the cast workers, I caught a glimpse of all the little details that make Disney World “magical.” Funerals are kind of the same way. There is a ton of behind the scenes work that goes into a funeral. Many people have no idea exactly how many things must be taken care of in short windows of time to get a funeral off without a hitch. While the funeral business hasn’t integrated towels folded into animal shapes or standard issue mouse ears for the average funeral goer, I do have a few casket-shaped novelties like keychains and notepads. Not as cool as Mickey Mouse. But still.


One thought on “A Funeral Director Goes to Disney World

  1. Wonderful to read your observations on the incongruous parallels between funerals and the Disney experience. There are others. Both represent events that are commonly experienced by families, and both are apparently the subject of complaints about rising costs.

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