Off the Beaten Track
Over dinner one night, Don Brawley, whose company builds
artificial marine reefs, got an unusual request from his
father-in-law: Upon his death, his father-in-law wanted his ashes
mixed into one of those concrete reefs.
"I'd rather spend eternity down there with all that life and
excitement going on than in a field of dead people," Brawley, of
Decatur, Ga., recalls Carleton Glen Palmer saying. It didn't matter
to Palmer where the reef was placed, "as long as there are lots of
grouper and snapper."
When Palmer died of cancer in 1998, Brawley fulfilled that wish
and built a memorial "reef ball"-a concrete sphere with holes in it
that resembles a Wiffle ball -- that was cast into the Gulf of
Mexico near Sarasota, Fla. (When sunk in the proper places,
artificial reefs can enhance the marine environment by providing
hiding places for fish and other aquatic marine life.)
When friends heard the story, they asked Brawley if he could do
the same for them or their family members. That was the beginning of
his company, Eternal Reefs
(888-423-7333), which incorporates cremated remains into its
Nontraditional Ways to Memorialize a Life
Everyone wants to be remembered, but these days, more people are
seeking personal and untraditional ways to accomplish this.
Yours (877-526-3871), of Biloxi, Miss., uses the ashes to create
tasteful art, from abstract paintings to landscapes and collages.
You can guide and instruct the artist to recreate a scene that was
special to your loved one, such as his favorite place at the beach.
Or you can ask the artist to create an abstract piece using colors
and shapes that best reflect special qualities or interests of the
deceased. For example, some people have asked for an abstract
painting that makes use the color of their loved one's eyes.
Prices range from $350 to $3,000, depending on the size and
complexity of the artwork.
If you love a party or want to go out with a "flare," Celebrate
Life (888-883-7060), of Lakeside, Cal., designs special
fireworks that contain the ashes of the departed. After your death,
your family would gather privately to watch the display. The company
tries to comply with requests for special colors and patterns, such
as heart-shaped designs. For $3,250, it will take a party of six on
a yacht off the California coast to watch the fireworks.
Eternal Reefs charges $3,200 for a memorial reef ball that weighs
4,000 pounds and $850 for a "community reef" that contains the
cremated remains of several people. This month the company plans to
place its first community reef in the waters off the coast of
Charleston, S.C. The ceremony will be public, city officials will
attend, and a barge will carry the reef ball out to sea. Family
members who wish to view the installation or hold a memorial service
can do so. Eternal Reefs is expanding its operations in Florida and
is considering opening a branch office in California.
Both Celebrate Life and Eternal Reefs have approval from local,
state and federal authorities, including the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, for their projects, company officials say.
Prepare Your Family
You can leave a nonbinding letter to your family instructing them
on how you want your remains treated, you can insert formal
instructions in your will, or you can simply leave the decision to
your spouse or family. But if you're keen on having an untraditional
burial or an unusual memorial service or celebration, it's wise to
let your family know of your intentions ahead of time. The more
offbeat your plan, the more you should be prepared to discuss their
concerns. If you wait until after you're gone to spring something
wildly unconventional on a grieving spouse or relative, your wishes
may cause dismay or even sow discord rather than generate the kind
of healing emotions you intended. Or they could just be