Once in a Lifetime

For most of September, I have been on an unexpected hiatus. I needed time to finalize plans for my mother’s service, pull my thoughts and words together for a eulogy, and spend time with my visiting family.

I debated how to approach my next post as I have focused (understandably so) on Gretchen’s passing. I felt like I should not write a third consecutive story on mom. But two thoughts kept returning. I wanted to share my new knowledge on this wonderful resting place named Neptune Memorial Reef and I realized I could do that primarily through photos.

The artificial reef is located off of Key Biscayne, Florida and is owned and still under development by Dignity Memorial. The plan is to expand the site to 16 acres. It is inspired by The Lost City of Atlantis. Those who choose cremation opt for their remains to be deployed to the Reef; by literally becoming a part of it.  The plan includes space for 250,000 individuals. Families can also choose to scatter ashes over the reef which we selected. Here are some Dignity Memorial staff photos:

It was an experience of a lifetime. A combination of twelve family members and friends gathered in Key Biscayne to board a dive boat (which holds 30) and drive 3 miles out. We were unsure what that would look like, but were a little relieved when we could still see the Miami skyline.

The waves were only running two feet and the sun shone brightly on the water. Pedro was our Dignity liaison. He was kind, patient and an experienced diver who left the boat for 20 minutes to attach mom’s plaque to the reef and take photos of its placement.

I hold many meaningful memories from the day, and I will share one. When my sister and I stood at the back of the boat to scatter our mother’s ashes, three pink Moon jellyfish suddenly floated to the top, as if to receive her. Since her small plaque read “The Colors of the Sea Are Now A Part Of Me” it simply could not have been better choreographed. It was beautiful.

While we spoke above the water, we had no idea what it looked like underneath. It was a few days until we received the underwater photos confirming what we had hoped. It is a special final resting place. In addition, we’ve learned that reefs are so helpful in breaking up wave energy from strong storms, protecting the coastline, and they create healthy ecosystems. We know our mother would appreciate being a part of all of that as well as being surrounded by its underwater beauty. It was the right decision and we know she is at peace.

Curious Local residents stopping by for a look


  1. Beautiful post, Melanie. You shouldn’t regret sharing a third post on this topic. First, grief is something that takes time to process, and it’s also ongoing. The pain may lessen, but it’s not like it goes away—nor should we expect it to. The notion that we’re suddenly going to wake up one day and say, “Okay, I’m done grieving about this, and now I’ll forget all about it,” isn’t the way it works. You may also help someone else going through the same thing.

    I may have shared this with you already (there’s that memory thing again), but my father-in-law was a hard-working man who primarily ran the family trucking business. He was not warm and fuzzy and had little time to indulge in hobbies. The only interest he had was golf. He was not a religious man, so it would not have felt right to have some memorial in a church. His daughters and son decided to have a celebration of life. When the event was over, the family (myself included) snuck onto one of his favorite golf courses late at night and spread his ashes. Illegal? Probably. Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so kind Pete. You always look for the positive such as I may be helping someone else going through the same thing. That is something I’ve forgotten in the midst of all of this change. Thank you. Also, you raise a good point about celebrating a life when the person is not religious. My mother would not want her memorial to be in a church, so you have to think differently. I do love the golf course story! You have to do what feels right for your loved one and there are endless alternatives out there. We have peace and closure with this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Even in the midst of your grief, Melanie, you consider the reader. How wise of you to begin and end with the visuals. Your most touching words to me were about you and your sister scattering the ashes and how nature responded. And also, for me, the most evocative photo: The family smiling, perhaps through tears, under the blue bowl of sky and puffy clouds.

    You are not being morbid writing about grief. As Pete mentions it is a process. In my experience, it’s a recursive one: a few steps forward and some backward. Writing helps in the healing, as you are discovering.

    I’m glad you feel peace about your decision, and–yes–a sense of closure in that our have honored your mother in the most appropriate way possible. Hugs! ((( )))

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do feel like there is a balance between sharing a little too much where people start to feel they can’t relate because they didn’t know my mom, but on the other hand, everyone has experienced grieving and can feel something familiar in what I share. And in truth, there were many things that moved me that day on the boat, but I chose the single jellyfish story as I felt, just like you, that it was incredibly touching. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Thanks for sharing that grief isn’t linear; I think sometimes I am on a path that will take me in one direction to acceptance. It’s not that easy! Lastly, we were smiling because how could we not! Everyone felt how special (and perfect) the experience was and knew how happy mom was with her celebration. Thank you Marian for your hugs! xo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you found this beautiful resting place for your mother. She would have loved it. Such a perfect day and place to celebrate her life with family and friends. I’m sure she was watching from above with a smile on her face, happy that her daughters had such an amazing tribute of their love for her. Thank you for sharing this special day and the wonderful pictures. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Betsy! In the midst of the celebration, Dennis turned to me and said “I don’t think even Gretchen could have imagined a better ceremony than this, she would be SO happy” and I know both Hailey ( 🙂 ) and I felt that 1000%. Plus, she is free now from the past several months that you know were literally, painful for her. And I love the photos too!! Thanks so much for all you did in mom’s life and for your comment here. ♥♥


  4. This is your place Melanie. I know well, there’s a million things we wish to say and share. You have given your mom a wonderful send off and you keep her memories alive in your heart and by sharing. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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