Tuesday, October 26 2004
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Who is your choice for U.S. Representative (Congress) in the 25th District?  
Howard "Buck" McKeon, R/Inc.

Fred "Tim" Willoughby, D.

Current results:

Howard "Buck" McKeon, R/Inc.
Fred "Tim" Willoughby, D.

How to Really Make an Ash of Oneself

Diana Sevanian Signal Staff Writer

Until recently there were two basic choices for the disposition of one's earthly remains: getting buried whole and then slowly decomposing; or being cremated, funneled into some urn, then left on a mantle to collect dust.
    That's so yesterday. Now we've got options.
    Like in "The Graduate," when Mr. Robinson shouted, "Plastics!" to Benjamin, a young guy trying to figure out his post-college destiny, Eternal Reefs Inc. says to all afterlife-minded consumers, "Reef balls!"
    A new wave in funereal futures, the company makes artificial underwater reefs from authentically incinerated dead people. Yes, Eternal Reefs will take your ashes, aka "cremains," cast them in concrete, ID the orb with a bronze plaque, then place it inside a designated state, federally and locally approved coral reef.
    According to their literature, reef ball-encrusted habitats help our waning coral populations and offer hope for fish, sea turtles and other forms of marine life now dwindling due to man's over-fishing and other ecological faux pas. Per Eternal Reefs and many of their online testimonials, they also provide environmental and nautically minded families a beautiful, serene and stationary alternative to scattering ashes at sea.
    Reef ball manufacture, placement and appurtenant services range in cost from $995 to $4,995. Designed to last more than 500 years, the balls can be visited by relatives via boat or deep-sea dive. But how does one find them, you ask? Reef estate executors receive a certificate identifying the longitude and latitude of their loved one's memorial.
    This could be way too difficult for geographically impaired yokels like me. Since I hit 50, I can't even find my car after 15 minutes in the supermarket, let alone hone in on coordinates in the Atlantic.
    The company says its reef sites are stable and secure, and it reports that during the devastating 1998 hurricane season in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, many took direct hits but all stayed intact.
    That's cool, but what about earthquakes? Couldn't some sudden, sub-ocean-floor tectonic seizure burp them back to shore?
    Think of it. A 6.8 shaker. Dislodged cremain clumps wash up like bobbing-head DNA dumplings. They've lost their ID. Good-bye Grandma Helen Minkowitz. Hello, "hot human collectible," destined to go for big bucks on e-Bay. Ugh.
    Business is actually going quite swimmingly for the Decatur, Geo.-based firm. To date, their thousands of Homo sapien-laced formations are located off the shores of Florida, Virginia, New Jersey, Texas and the Carolinas.
    But with all due respect to those who select this unique and poignant form of recycling, I've decided it's just a little too Capt. Nemo-meets-Jimmy Hoffa-meets-"Soylent Green" for my blood.
    Curious about what others think of it, though, I asked some friends for input. Did I get a sea of replies.
    "I was a skeptic at first," my pal Sharon said after perusing the Eternal Reefs Web site (www.eternalreefs.com). "But as I read on, I saw it is a unique way to accomplish the theory, 'from dust thou art, to dust thou shall return.' It also gives back to the sea and creates beauty, and is definitely a unique and unconventional way to be memorialized."
    Outdoor lover Candye said, "It sounds wonderful, but I want to fertilize a pine tree at 10,000 feet."
    If Kathy had her druthers, she'd rather bury ashes than feed them to fish. But she much prefers a plot on terra firma for mourners to visit her.
    The tangible quality of a permanent monument at sea could be more comforting emotionally than just "losing the ashes," reasoned Matt.
    Steve said while reefs may appeal to seafaring, eco-polite people, he opts for the traditional in-ground job. No sleeping with the fishes for this guy. A doctor, Steve likes the idea of improving the health of our oceans. He also knows all life gets recycled, one way or another.
    "My knowledge of the water and nitrogen cycle gives me reassurance that the glass of Perrier I drink today was Tyrannosaurus Rex pee eons ago. After all, worms and maggots have to eat, too," the Yale and Princeton grad said.
    Now, for yet another novel idea that has hit the after-death market: Houston artist Wayne Martin makes cremains into canvas art. Selling as high as $10,000, they can symbolize the person's passions, like gardening, a peace sign or vocation.
    My wry-humored friend Joel said he's only interested in one if he can come back painted as Elvis playing poker with dogs, masterfully executed on some cheesy black velvet canvas.
    As for moi, I have my own to-die-for plans on post-demise remembrance and functionality.
    Take half of my cremains and stuff them in a Signal newsroom chair cushion. That way, sitting on my ash at work will take on a whole new meaning.
    Next, compress the remainder into my colleagues' typewriter keys. Then maybe when they make deadline, they'll think of me and smile. How delightfully existentialist, right?
    Hey, it beats the heck out of hanging on some wall.
    Or worse yet, spending 500 years being squirted with halibut poop.
    Diana Sevanian is a Signal staff writer. Her column appears Saturdays and she can be reached at dsevanian@the-signal.com.

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