“Below are some photos of your husbands reef ready for pickup. We are all waiting for FedEx. There are a number of vets here standing guard with him until he is taken by the driver.”
Underneath the plastic wrap, fed-ex pickup tag and American Flag, are the ashes of my husband. They’ve been mixed with what I assume to be cement and organic materials and made into a living reef memorial. I don’t know if it’s possible to see a photo and feel simultaneously sick to your stomach and unbelievably proud, but if it is, I am. In this moment, having just received this email and these photos, I am distraught, looking at a photo of what I know to be my husband in his last form, but in the same moment, so unbelievably happy to know through this, Brian will be returning to the ocean he adored and felt a part of.
I’ve been working with the owner of this company since October of last year when he first contacted me and made the generous offer to donate a reef to our family. He had seen the Stay Gold video I posted online and as a man of the sea himself, felt compelled to reach out. To say I’m grateful is such an understatement to the amount of gratitude I feel towards this man, this company and the vision he’s made into a reality. I knew when the time came, Brian wanted to be returned to the sea, and I knew I would make this happen for him, but once Living Reef Memorials reached out to me with their offer, without question, there was no better option for what Brian would want than exactly this.
Draped under an American Flag, Brian’s reef is now being flown from San Diego to Honolulu where the kids and I will join it next week. With help from friends on the island, I’ve put together a memorial dive where myself, along with 12 other divers from around the country will dive into the warm Hawaiian waters where Brian took his last breath and lower this reef onto the sea floor. This reef, and Brian, will become a part of the underwater ecosystem, allowing the creatures and critters we fell in love with under the ocean surface to build their own lives from the loss of his.
The dive team will consist of his dive buddies, co-workers, peers and friends who are all wanting their own opportunity to say goodbye and make sure he is safely and securely placed in his final resting place, and I have very recently decided I will be joining them on this dive. Up until just a few days ago, I did not think I would ever dive again. I understand first-hand the opportunity for things to quickly go wrong, and how there are often no second chances in the water. I have loved scuba diving since the moment Brian and I splashed for the first time in these same Hawaiian waters in November 2014 during our discover scuba diving course and I thought diving would be a part of my life forever. But the thought of leaving these three young children without a dad or a mom was enough to scare me away for good and I was ready to hang up my fins, recalling beautiful memories made underwater, but not willing to compromise my safety or the potential for something to go wrong in lieu of new ones. Something changed in me the other day and I feel like I need to do this dive. I need to say goodbye in my own way, in the waters Brian and I fell in love with, in the place I know he spent his final moments alive in. I need to see with my own eyes the last few images he saw with his and to find peace with it. I need to do this for me. I’m scared, I’m nervous, I’m anxious. But I’m not deterred. I will be surrounded by some of the most experienced and highly trained scuba divers in the country who will be looking after me to ensure I make it to the surface and back to my kids. This might be my last dive for quite some time, but I feel determined and I’m doing it.
I’m also humbled to say, the gentleman who purchased Stay Gold from us, also a scuba diver, and also a service member has graciously volunteered his time and the use of Stay Gold to transport our family members to the dive site where they will watch as we place his reef from her. Brian loved this yellow sailboat as a member of our family, and it is fitting and proper that he is returned from her to the same ocean he sailed across her in.
Think happy thoughts as Brian and his reef begin their journey back across the ocean, making their way back to Honolulu. I’ll be posting photos and updates about our own journey back to the island next week, and all that’s ahead for us.
Thank you, as always, for your incredibly encouraging and supportive words and even more for your friendship through all of this.