2017-07-13 / Top News

Teens get pep talk from funeral director

Funeral director Garrett Jacobs talks to teens about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse and texting while driving. Funeral director Garrett Jacobs talks to teens about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse and texting while driving. Death is Garrett Jacobs’ business. As owner of The Gardens Funeral Home and Cemetery in Boca Raton, Mr. Jacobs comes into contact with people who have died every day. But in last five years he’s noticed a troubling trend.

“My cemetery used to see 3-5 deaths of young people a year,” he said, “now we’re seeing that per month and it’s only getting worse.”

The opioid epidemic is a major culprit, he said, but not just that. Overdoses, alcohol poisoning, texting while driving and suicides all contribute to early deaths.

Mr. Jacobs, who lives in Lake Worth, is launching a program to start a dialogue with teens about the fragility of life and the importance of making good decisions so they have a chance to live a long, full life before they end up in a cemetery.

JACOBS JACOBS To that end, Mr. Jacobs invited a handful of teens to his cemetery last month to walk the grounds, learn the stories of some of the folks interred at The Gardens Cemetery, especially some of those who died as children or teenagers.

“I thought if we could get out there and try to explain and walk around the cemetery and have them look at some of the crypt books and see how young some of the people are, they would get the concept and the idea that life is fragile, and how you have to take care of yourself and your body.

“I thought it’d be a good idea for me to get together a couple of kids that were in junior high, a couple that were in high school and just let them know what could happen because kids aren’t thinking about what they are doing,” he said. “So, the overdoses and the alcohol poisoning happening, perhaps because of the videos they’re seeing on TV, are becoming more prevalent. They think they can drink a whole bottle of vodka and next thing you know they have an accident on their hands.”

Besides the walk through the cemetery, which serves people from Vero Beach through Deerfield Beach, Mr. Jacobs had the group gather in the chapel, complete with casket at the front, to have an understanding of what it could be like if one of their companions died.

“We let a student, the eldest in the group, stand up in front of the chapel,” he said. “We asked the others to close their eyes and think of a friend who could possibly pass away from a texting and driving accident. She spoke of a good friend of hers and said how much she would be missed and how stupid it was and what a waste of talent this creates.”

The talk created a great dialogue, Mr. Jacobs said.

“I asked each of the students to promise me they would at least talk to two of their friends about what they did that day and let them know, when they hear these stories, it’s their responsibility to share it with at least two of their friends, because if you can protect at least one of your friends, wouldn’t you try?”

Mr. Jacobs, 45, bought the cemetery on Military Trail in Boca Raton a year and a half ago, but has been in the funeral business for 25 years. “I have a 19-year-old son and I thought it would be a good idea to share with kids in the area the things I talk to my son about at night.”

He plans to go to area high schools around prom season to share his new program.

“I want them to live long, full lives,” he said. ¦

Return to top