Swimming with the Fishes, Fer Reals

So this week I made my plans to go down to Florida and, per my dad's request, scatter his cremains in Florida Bay.

Not terribly funny right? Not material fit for a humor blog? Oh, just you wait for it, my friends.

So in doing some research, I learned that in order to accomplish these last wishes, I wouldn't be able to spread the ashes off a peaceful dock somewhere with a nice view. I would need to rent a boat, since Florida law says you can't spread cremains in the water unless it's three miles off-shore.

Given this is about the same distance I see smokers these days having to walk away from a public building in order to have a cigarette, this wasn't entirely surprising to me.

So the question for me became: what the heck kinda boat does one rent for such an occasion? I mean, this is Dad. This isn't the former Little Big Jimmy Left-Feet of the Parmagiana Crime Family who you speedboat out to the Everglades while playing the Miami Vice theme song, dump him in, and hope for curious crocs before the police get wind.

One has a certain expectation for decorum here.

Worse, I was getting visions of fishing charters where I'd be scattering ashes on one side of the boat while Stan, George and Mindy Sue there on the other side of the boat were tapping a keg and pulling in the Catch of the Day. "Hey, watch it, lady-- it's drifting. You got a little of your father on our flounder!"

(I know, I can't believe I wrote that, either. But this is the way my mind works under stress.)

So I called the main funeral home down in the Keys and explained the situation. They were very understanding and kindly gave me a referral to a reliable place their clients often use in sad times just like this:

It happened to be a dive shop.

Yes, in between snorkeling trips and dolphin wrangling and whatnot, this dive shop takes the bereaved out in boats so their loved ones can swim with the fishes for all eternity.

So very Florida Keys.

But here's the kicker, the thing that nearly made me burst into wholly inappropriate fits of giggles...

I booked the boat, was glad to have this one increasingly complex task finally pinned down, my mind relieved, and the nice Dive Dude says to me, "So, will you be wanting to go in the water after?"

"Um... WHAT?!"

"Well, sometimes people want to do snorkeling trips on the way back."

"From the funeral?"

"Yeah. They stop to go diving. Will anyone be swimming?" he asked, his voice filled with total sincerity.

"Um, no."

To my knowledge, Jimmy Buffet has never mentioned this in his songs.


Jenifer Ranieri said...

Oh, Jenn! **wry laughter** Some times in life, you just HAVE to laugh, right? I know you write this stuff for you...but you should know, you also seem to write it for me, too.

It's a good mix, grief and laughter. A bit of salty-sweetness. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. :-)


Nick said...

Hopefully your dad had a good sense of humor too, and would appreciate what you went through.

Deray said...

I know someone that would not have missed the chance to dive in Florida for any reason. I send you a big big hug Jenn and I hope your dad lives happily ever after in the mineral Earth cycle ;)

Unknown said...

Jenifer- Heh, I'm glad you can identify. Thanks (hugs back)

Nick- I'm honestly not sure WHAT his reaction would be on this one. :) I'm sort of braced for more quirky weirdness when I go down there and actually take care of it. But hey, maybe I'll get another story out of it.

Unknown said...

Deray- Given my dad was a biologist, I do believe you have hit right on the thinking! :)

Unknown said...

This post made me laugh.

And then I felt awkward about laughing.

But then I laughed some more.

And felt even MORE awkward. :)

Unknown said...

Tricia- Hey, it's okay, because we're BOTH laughing awkwardly. :) Believe me.

Steve Bailey said...

Hey if you cant laugh at the crazy moments..... whats the point. Good blog!

Vanessa said...

Aww...a story sweet, sad, and funny all in one. I love the hell out of swimming...I dunno, I think I may be the type to swim at a funeral...easier to wash away the tears, right?

I've been a Floridian for over 10 years, the crazy has rubbed off on me!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Steve!

Van- There's a very surreal quality to the idea, but the Keys are pretty offbeat anyway. :)

Jaffer said...

It's a good thing I waited to read this post after I reached home !

What a hilarious recount Jenn :)

I thought people take a cruise out into the Atlantic and discreetly spread the ashes.

Perhaps it's only in the movies.

Either way, Mr. Thorson might very well be riding the waves to Cuba.

ReformingGeek said...


I'm glad it wasn't offered to snorkel at the "grave site".

Unknown said...

Jaffer- Well, he didn't want it to be the Altantic, he wanted it to be in Florida Bay, which leads to the Gulf of Mexico. It's not really a cruise destination so much as a jetski area... which you can imagine leads to its own bad scenarios in my mind. :)

ReformingGeek- That was what I was initially concerned he was suggesting, too! Then I couldn't wrap my mind around wearing dive suits or bathing suits to a funeral.

Melanie said...

So, let me get this straight. You're going to Florida and you're NOT going swimming and diving. Call me crazy, but this seems like the perfect trip for multitasking. I mean you might as well get your full value out of the boat ride.

:) Ok, I feel a little bit guilty laughing about this post, but I guess it's a very good thing if you can keep your sense of humor at such times in life.

Jaffer said...

Oh ! My geography is not as good as I thought it was.

Looked up on Google Earth to find where Florida Bay was and also discovered that Cuba is to the south of the Keys ... not to the east as I always thought.


Shieldmaiden96 said...

For a minute I thought he meant some people go swimming IMMEDIATELY after. Like, where the ashes are. And I was thinking WHY??? But now I get it.
I figure, down there, you have hardcore ocean loving folks, probably people who would LOVE IT if the ash scatterers went for a wee snorkel after the deed was done.
So it kinda makes sense.

I think we talked about this when you visited but my family has a grand tradition of discreet ash scattering sans permission. (Pro tip: If you are going through Canadian customs with ashes, put them in a box that doesn't attract attention.)

Unknown said...

Jaffer- The Keys do wrap leftward off the coast, so that makes it confusing. If I recall properly, Cuba is just 80 miles south of Key West.

Shieldmaiden- Thanks for the advice, though if I end up in Canada, that will mean I had one HECK of a wrong stopover. :) I am already anticipating the fun of getting the plastic box of ashes through security. I was told to take a death certificate with me to prove it is what it is.

June O'Hara said...

Life does have a way of creating odd scenarios, doesn't it? Thank God for a sense of humor, so you can get a smile even under what can be difficult circumstances.

Gianetta said...

Just make sure you're down wind when you spread the ashes. I was told the story of someone who didn't do that and it didn't turn out very well. I'll be thinking about you...

Chronicles of Illusions said...

I took my Dad out in a friend's boat - as I started to empty the ashes overboard a wind came up. I think he was laughing at me. :)

Unknown said...

June- There's no alternative, really. You don't have to like what life hands you, but you do have to keep on keeping on.

MAFW- Yeah, I don't want to reenact the "scattering Donnie's Ashes Scene" from the Big Lebowski!

Jo- Oh dear... I have visions of that now...

Jenni Jansen said...

First i really enjoy your blog. if one cannot laugh, where is the pleasure in life?
Loved this post. Life is filled with irony. I lost my father 16 years ago. I know how difficult it is! But i can't help but think, your father would appreciate your efforts to fufill his request and that somewhere he is smiling down at you, a universal heavenly thank you of sorts!
Good luck! I have a strong feeling that you will have another great story to tell! A gift from your father!
in Philly

Unknown said...

Jenni- Thank you, both for sharing and your kindness. Yes, I think I'll probably come back with some interesting stories-- I was actually joking about that with another friend, saying I had roped one of my buddies into going with me because I would need a witness for whatever other strange stuff is bound to go down on the trip.

Dad loved being blogged about, so I suspect he wouldn't mind. :)