Monday, July 4, 2011

Tranquility Garden

I read that there was going to be an open house celebration for a new cremation garden complete with free family portraits. I drove to Oaklawn Park Cemetery to sketch the festivities. Part of me hoped there would be lines of zombie families waiting to have their decaying corpses photographed. I drove into the cemetery searching for the "Tranquility Garden." I found a "Garden of Eternity" but no tranquility. I figured I might be in the wrong cemetery so I pulled back onto CR46-A and started driving. That is when I noticed the Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home across the street. I did a u-turn and pulled in the parking lot. Two hearses and a limo were parked in the car port. I was greeted at the front door by a very old gentleman in a black suit. There were a dozen people dressed in black in the entryway. When I asked to see "Tranquility Garden" I was introduced to Ed Johnson.

Ed walked me past the room where the free family portraits were being taken. I asked how many people they were expecting to photograph and he estimated 300 people would show up. We walked through offices, a kitchenette and a break room before going outside to hop on a golf cart. He drove me back into the cemetery and we stopped near a beautiful fountain. Behind every gray tile on the fountain there was a cavity for cremated remains. There was a row of small grass plots for interments. Several plots had large granite headstones. A huge dark granite rocking chair could hold a couple's ashes in two square canisters at the base of the chair. No, the chair did not rock.

A staircase followed a nice flowing waterway they added to the landscape. There was a putting green set up and a sculpture of a golf bag was there to house a happy golfer's remains. There was a scoreboard to keep track of the eternal game. There was a fish sculpture for a fisherman and a chess piece for a chess master. There was an area dedicated to war veterans, with simple stone monoliths where individuals would each have their own tile. There was a wishing well where it would be possible to have your ashes co-mingled with other peoples ashes. Perhaps in this age of social networks that is an attractive sales point.

I told Ed I would like to do a sketch. He seemed perplexed. As I worked a black sedan pulled up next to me and the two men inside watched me intently. They must have been sent to make sure I wasn't a vandal. I sketched faster thinking I might be asked to leave. It started to rain. I ran up to a gazebo and continued to add water color washes there. When it stopped raining I returned to my original spot to finish the sketch. On a distant hill the Virgin Mary held her hands open in supplication. The sun blasted through the clouds baking my black wet shirt.

All artwork is for sale. Some originals available as well as limited edition prints. Commissions upon request. Please contact artist.

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