Burial at sea: An option for families looking to memorialize someone in an eternal reef off the coast

These permanent memorials placed on the ocean floor create new marine habitats for fish and other forms of sea life
Updated: Apr. 21, 2021 at 11:59 AM EDT
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PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) -Seth Chaban of Holly Ridge and his dad are going on a day cruise off the coast of Surf City. But, only one of them is coming back. That may seem odd, but that’s the entire purpose of the trip. On this boat ride, there are families and friends who are grieving and preparing for a burial at sea.

“It’s great that we prepared for this ahead of time, it’s what he loved to do,” said Chaban. “This will be just a form of closure.”

The name of the organization behind this burial is “Eternal Reefs.” It’s a national organization that does sea burials up and and down the coast. There are locations in New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, and Florida.

According to the company’s website: An eternal reef combines a cremation urn, ash scattering, and burial at sea into one meaningful, permanent environmental tribute to life.

An eternal reef is part of a designed reef system created from individual reef balls made of environmentally safe, marine-grade concrete that quickly assimilates into the natural ocean environment. These permanent memorials placed on the ocean floor create new marine habitats for fish and other forms of sea life.

Eternal Reefs takes the cremated remains — or “cremains” — of an individual and incorporates them into a proprietary, environmentally safe cement mixture designed to create artificial reef formations.

“To be born means one day you’ll die. That’s the circle of life,” said Margie Ploense, who is part of the team putting the burial together. “To see the turtles and the sea life attach itself to this and produce an eco-system that was once barren — I mean, there are no words.”

Brooke Mooney Suggs has made this trip before. Three years ago, she placed her dad at the bottom of the ocean. This time she’s back with the remains of her brother and mom.

“Time doesn’t heal, it just gets easier to deal with,” said Suggs. “But knowing this is what she wanted and this is something as a family we support, it does help a lot.”

Seth Chaban’s dad battled cancer for 15 years. The family knew one day the cancer would take his life. Seth is an avid diver. He’s grateful knowing his dad is, once again, giving back, and grateful for the opportunity to see the effort grow and flourish.

“The ocean, to me, has been a special place; it’s where I feel most spiritual,” said Chaban. “That’s the sweetness of it. I know I can visit.”

To learn more about “Eternal Reefs” click here.

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