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Some finding eternal peace in the sea
5/6/2007 5:49 PM
By: Staff and wire reports

This is a reef ball, which is made of concrete, that stores the remains.  
Joyce Yoder and her family have made an unusual decision. They have chosen to memorialize her husband by putting his remains in an artificial reef ball made of concrete. They are visiting one last time before it is placed at the bottom of the ocean, but they're not grieving.

"We look at this as an opportunity to celebrate, not to mourn, because his life and his memory is going to live on through the reef," Yoder said.

The Reef Ball Development Group of Decatur, Ga. began making artificial reefs in the early '90s. But in 1998 they started the Eternal Reefs program as a memorial option.

"My father-in-law came over for dinner and said 'Don, I got a favor to ask of you. When I pass away I'm going to be cremated and I want you to take my remains and put them in one of those artificial reefs you build. I'd rather spend eternity down there with all that life and excitement going on than in a field with a bunch of old, dead people,'" Don Brawley, Eternal Reefs founder, said.

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Beyond the sea

While it might seem strange to some, a few people have chosen to have their remains stored in a coral reef.

Since then the program has placed roughly 250 memorials for people like William Yoder, who loved life and the ocean.

"He was a person who believed in living life to the fullest one day at a time," Joyce Yoder said. "He always said that you know, you come from the earth and the water and that's where he wanted to go back. So being buried at sea was very important to him too."

"Unlike going to normal cemeteries and all, it's kind of dreary and you know, it's not real comfortable for a lot of people. But you know, going to a reef or going fishing on a site, or actually diving on it and seeing all the life and the fish and the growth is much more enlightening and uplifting for everybody," Larry Beggs of Reef Innovations said.

The Eternal Reefs program cooperates with the family throughout the process. They let them participate in making the concrete reef ball in the beginning and perform a site dedication on a boat at the end.

"It's been very rewarding and very fulfilling helping these people come to closure with their, the loss of a loved one, and at the same time doing something good for the world and the environment," Brawley said.

"Letting go is always so hard, and this was a really good way to let go," Yoder said.

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