Disney off the Beaten Path: Spending Eternity at the Happiest Place on Earth
No, don’t be alarmed: Disney hasn’t gone into the funeral business, although if they did, rest assured there would be takers. But it just so happens that some die-hard (I’m keeping the pun) Disney fans have taken matters into their own hands and decided that spending eternity at the happiest place on earth is a great idea. I discovered this recently when an acquaintance of mine, a huge Disney fan, confided in me that her father’s ashes had been scattered “Somewhere in Disney World.” When I inquired where, she only assured me that it was in a very private place and not in the parks. I figured this was a fluke, but when I did some research, I discovered numerous reports about spreading a loved one’s ashes in Disney parks, part of a trend that began in the late 90s and is prevalent enough today that Disney reportedly has special cleaning crews, armed with vacuums capable of picking up dust and bone fragments, for such occasions.
So is it true? Well, Disney won’t say for sure and really, I can’t blame them. It’s a rather depressing subject for such a happy place. Officially, Disney gets a handful of requests a year to scatter a loved-one’s ashes in the parks, which they turn down. Unofficially, it happens, just like Flash Mountain (people flashing when the camera takes their photo on Splash Mountain) happens. Disney can’t stop everything and there are only so many cameras. And really, what’s the harm? They either wash away in the rain or are cleaned up. Topping the list in popularity is, not surprisingly, The Haunted Mansion, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World. The latter, presumably, for that pesky mother-in-law you’ve just got to stick it to one last time.
As for my friend, her father had always loved Fort Wilderness and the family had been going there every few years since it opened. It was a special place where she watched her little brother learn to walk and where her mom didn’t have to cook dinner. Once, both sets of grandparents were able to join them, the one time they all vacationed together. And her dad often talked about buying an RV when he retired and staying there during the colder months, but that didn’t happen. When he got sick, they didn’t plan for his funeral; it was too much for the family to think about. When he died, not of his disease but suddenly, of complications related to it, the family traded doing something meaningful for simply gertting through it. It wasn’t until a year after he passed away that her brother got the idea of spreading their dad’s ashes at Disney World. It first it became a bit of a joke, but the more they talked about it, the more it began to make sense.
I asked my friend if it was odd going back knowing that her dad’s ashes were there. She said no, that it was comforting. Knowing that he was at one of his favorite places gave them peace, more so now that all of them are living in different parts of the country. They’ll always go back to Disney World, she explained. While I may frown at the idea of dusting Pirates with your Great Aunt Alice, I found their story very touching. I understand why Disney doesn’t allow it, but this story and others like it gave people comfort. It meant something to them. And for that, I think they can be forgiven for bending the rules a bit.