Remembrance at Sea

Over the fourth of July weekend I had the pleasure of working on a committee that provided a much needed space of rest and reflection during a rather emotionally drenched few days during The Compassionate Friends 36th National Conference.  The theme was Beacons of Light, Rays of Hope.  Keeping with this theme I designed the room to have a lighthouse in each corner.  I then, with the help of a few volunteers, collected over 1,000 shells which were placed in baskets in the room.  Sharpies were provided and attendees were welcomed to write on the shells and place them under the lighthouse to remain there during the weekend.  When it was over, we auctioned off the lighthouses and all were welcomed to bring their shell home with them, or leave it and we would distribute them back into the ocean.IMG_0390

Almost 800 shells were left with messages of love to our children, grandchildren and siblings.  We gently packed them up and looked for a boat to charter to bring the shells back to sea.  Parents from a local chapter contacted us that they had a boat we could use.  Joan and Joel Marcus graciously took us out on their boat, “Just Desserts”.  With summer time, vacations and life, it needed to wait until August.  This past Sunday, August 25th, a beautiful summer evening we set out of Duck Island Yacht Club into the ocean.


It was a perfect day, warm waters, calm seas and blue skies!  I put on a bathing suit, grabbed my camera and jumped into the water.  It has been a long time since I swam in the ocean and it felt good.  As I grabbed a line to the boat soI would not be carried away by the current, my fellow crew mates prepared the shells.  Joel gave a little speech and we started to read the names from the shells as we slide them into the water.   It was amazing to watch how each shell reacted differently to the water.  Some floated while others drifted.  Some plunged and others danced.  A few bounced back out before peacefully floating on.  I like to think that the shells took on the personality of the name written on them.  It was a unique experience.  One I felt honored to be a part of.

Thank you for sharing a very small piece of your loved one with us.

If you would like to view the slideshow, just click on this link:  SHELLS

For a few snippets of video as the shells float underwater click on these links:






  1. marti & joe says:

    Ann & Jeff, you did a truly lovely job with the camera and being in the water – with so many shells and so many lives gone – thank you again and again. looking forward to October in Danbury.

  2. Gail Lafferty says:

    Anne …. I cannot tell you how beautiful I thought the reflection room was this year at the conference. I love how you explained all of it on this page. Then I watched the video and it is so beautiful! You and your husband and the “Just Desserts” loving couple did such honor and took such care putting all of our shells with our children’s names on them …. back to the ocean. When I wrote my son’s name on the shell at the conference I debated whether to bring it home with me …. but decided he would love it going back to the water where he loved to be and play as a child. And I found him on your video …. thank you so much ….. this has touched me so deeply.
    Thank you to all of you who had a part in this beautiful memory of our children. <3

  3. This was very touching…..and honoring. Thank you for doing this. The reflection room and this activity was one of the most moving and healing things for me at that weekend. What a thoughtful, beautiful and honoring act for my daughter and 3 grandsons. May God bless you for all you have done for us bereaved.

  4. Laurie Griffin says:

    I was not actually present so Julie Griffin Diem represented my Daughter, Courtney in the walk and the shell project. This is amazing and so freeing. I am so grateful that you all do this as we try to remember our children in special ways as often as we can. It keeps them alive for us and keeps us going every day. Beautiful experience and thank you for sharing. God Bless each and every one of you.

  5. There are no words, just sobbing right now. We miss our son so much. Thank you for taking his shell back out to sea and for the beautiful reflection.

  6. Debra McCarthy says:

    So beautiful, I cannot tell you how much this meant to me. The reflecting room was extremely moving. My family and I spent a lot of time there. I can’t believe I saw my shell to my son Colby and the shell I did for my friends son Paddy going into the ocean. I cannot thank all of you enough for doing this for all of us that were so blessed to be able to attend the conference.

  7. Maureen Kacillas says:

    The Reflection room in Boston was so calming and moving. This video of all our shells with our childrens names on them was awesome… I felt you did a beautiful job. Thank you for releasing my shell with my son’s name on it…..Justin. loved and missed always.

  8. Jackie Glawe says:

    The reflection room in Boston was amazing…so serene and calming and I loved the shell idea! .. Thank you so much for taking the time to take all the shells to the ocean and video and photograph the process as well.. I can’t even tell you how special this is. Thank you also to the couple who took you out in their boat. Totally amazing!

    Jordan Elizabeth’s mom forever

  9. Donna LaPointe says:

    This was SO powerful- all I can say is Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. What an incredible testament to our precious children. The reflection room was awesome on it’s own but for you to so beautifully & lovingly release the shells back to the ocean, is something I have no words for. I feel very lucky that I spent time in that room and made a shell for my Michael. It is so special and I appreciate it so much. Donna, Michael’s mom

  10. Troy Chinen says:

    Thank you Anne, Joan and Joel — this was just what I needed today.

  11. marcia garber says:

    wow…..thank you….. : ……

  12. Carol Ryan Lewis says:

    From my broken heart, thank you! The reflection room was perfect–so much thought and effort must have gone into it. I was so touched by the shells and wrote on one for my son and for a friend’s child. I had intended to pick them up at the end of the conference but did not get back to the room in time. When I saw the sideshow, I was so glad that my son’s shell was where it should be–with our beautiful children– all together. We live in Iowa; my son never had the chance to swim in the ocean. I was so filled with gratitude at the reverence shown to these shells–there seemed to be a sacredness about their return to the sea. Please know there are many, many parents who send love and thanks to all involved. Ryan’s mom

  13. Ann Walsh says:

    How beautiful that is!! It is so very special to have our children remembered in this way! THANK YOU for the time you spent both doing this and sharing it with us! Hugs!!!

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