The Memorial Reefs

Most of us probably do not think much about death or funeral service, mainly because we do not want to…the fact is we have to face it one day, making that decision for ourselves while we are still living, or having someone else to make that decision for us.

When my American co-workers came to my mom’s funeral, it was rather strange for them to witness, mainly because it was a Buddhist funeral service and the monks performed the funeral service. My mom was cremated, so her ash was put in an urn and placed in Tadt (monument) at the Buddhist temple, this, some of my co-workers thought it was rather strange.


What I find fascinating and strange is the memorial reefs, it is a designed reef made of environmentally safe cast concrete that is used to create new marine habitats for fish and other forms of sea life. The memorial reefs is created by taking the cremated remains or “cremains” of an individual and incorporates them into an environmentally safe cement mixture designed to create artificial reef formations. The memorial reefs is taken to a curing area and then placed in the permitted ocean location selected by the individual, friend, or family member.


For families and individuals that choose cremation rather than burial, the memorial reefs offers a new memorial option that replaces cremation urns and ash scattering with a permanent environmental living legacy, which expected to last 500 years, and currently, many memorial reefs have been placed off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia, and many locations around the world.

I often thought about my mom, if she would have liked this. She was afraid of water, mainly because she believed that she was the daughter of Phaya Nark, or Naga in her past life and that he was looking for her. She told me of strange stories she had encountered that were crediting this belief, so she stayed away from the water as long as I could remember, whether it was the Mekong river, small lake, ocean, or even swimming pool, I guess you can say that she had aqua phobia. When she was alive, she did not know about the memorial reefs, I often wonder what she would have thought of it, if she had liked it.

I personally like the idea; I love fish and water, something worth thinking for myself.


  1. This is an interesting read. Reef, I would never thought of it.
    Reference to pa ya nak. Maung Lao is muang pa ya nak. por sa nun leow, luk larn lao suan lai ja pen luk pa ya nak. Most of the parents would have been told that they are a daughter or son of pa ya nak. Pa ya nak is sacred creature and a protector of buddhism, go where their people go. A lot of my friends’ mom from the region have claimed that their past life is from muang ba darn. In the end we go back the way we came, home.

    Take care and have a great day tomorrow.

  2. I would tend to prefer a practical funeral. By putting our ashes into water, we might become sea creature in our next life. But if our religion says it’s okay then it’s okay with me. But really, it’s a matter of belief. 😉

  3. Hi Amphone, I didn’t realize that most people in Laos feel that they are the daughters/sons of Phaya Nark, or Naga, I thought it was strange when she told me her story. She said that she was forbidden to come to the human world, she disobeyed and he was looking for her, it was worse when she was younger, she couldn’t even go to fetch the water from the well herself, but as she got older, she claimed that he quit looking for her. It was her belief that is all I can say.

    Hi Sim, I would still want a traditional Laotian funeral, this part doesn’t change. As far as disposal of ashes, this is from my Buddhism Inter blog,

    “The question has often been asked whether would be better to bury the ashes, enshrine them in a building or have them strewn into the sea. The Buddha did not leave any specific instructions on the matter because he wanted us to understand that the body is nothing more than a combination of physical materials, which will ultimately return to the same elements of Solidity, Fluidity, Heat, and Motion. Upon death only two elements will remain, namely Solidity and Fluidity which, when reduced to ashes, has no spiritual significance. Because we regard the remains as a reminder of the dead person whom we had once loved, we treat them with respect. But we must not get attached to them or even think that they in any way will have any link with the person who has since died. Buddhism teaches that the life force departs immediately after death, and that it takes one another life form elsewhere.”

    The choice of one method or another should be in accordance with the last wishing of the deceased or be left to the discretion of the next-of-kin. As for me, I’m leaning toward the memorial reefs, some people want their ashes to be scattered over the Mekong River, I guess that is somewhat romantic in a way, but I’m thinking about the environment, the coral reefs are disappearing and this is a way to bring it back permanently.

  4. You know Ginger, there are so many accounts of pa ya nak and their visit to our realm. It was told through our elders (their belief and faith) that on a wun sinh, it when they (nak not pa ya nak) would be most active in our world. The young lady would have to watch out the most. If not guarded well they would be abbucted. Pa ya nak on the other hand, would love to see his children again and often time would seek them out himself. For he has the most vica (magic).

    A long time ago, those that belief in them will get their protection. They helped Laotian king out a lot. They only help out the righteous and just ones though. This I heard. For Laotian having faith in our ancestrial beliefs, customs and traditions is what make us who we are, defiance.

    Want to hear about ya mae Si Muang? Not a chance, someone else can tell you about this one. Take care.

  5. Hi Amphone, I read a Thai novel of Phaya Nark before and it was interesting, and thanks for explaining the belief to me, I didn’t realize that we had a long history that was intertwined with Phaya Nark as I often thought of the stories as the myths and legends.

    When you have time, you can tell me about Ya Mae Si Muang at your blog, I’ve never heard of the story.

  6. Hi Ginger, myth and legends are great. I think our elders heard it first and passed them down. Respect always there. They belief become our belief. That’s great about it. I encourage the elders to tell us more so we can keep them and pass them along.

    I will ask the elders about ya mae si muang as we know of her. I was born a mile or two from wat si muang.

    With her permission, I will write about her. Let me pray a lot first. Don’t want any visitor at night.

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