Earlier this year prior to the diving season kicking off in full swing, I received a call from a prospective customer looking to obtain his scuba Diving Certification. As we started his training he told us the reason behind his desire to achieve this goal. Below is his story and it touched us all. For no other reason, this is why I teach and share my love of the deep with people. Ray, you are an inspiration to us all at Compass Dive and Sail. I wish I could have met your wife. No doubt, I will someday and we will all dive the oceans together for eternity.

My name is Raymond Jones and I recently embarked on obtaining my PADI Open Water certification.

There’s a lot to this story but first I want to thank all of the great folks at Compass Dive and Sail for a very special and pleasant experience. At the start of my training I was the only student enrolled which allowed me some great one-on-one instruction from both Doug and Matt. Spending time with them and their families at Lake Phoenix and obtaining my PADI OW cert on my birthday just topped off a fantastic weekend. They are the best!! I also want to commend the staff at Neptune Memorial Reef who have been nothing less than tremendous, with being a part of every step and aspect of my journey and ensuring our family was comfortable and our needs were always considered. Thank you to Jim, Ray and Nikita!

Most people I believe (from what I’ve been told) will usually want to get their diving certification after a trip to the beach, visiting an exotic location or watching some inspiring documentary about diving and seeing the wonders the sea has to offer. My quest to dive was just slightly different yet I think it has had the same infectious result; the love of wanting to dive, to bond with those who have the passion, and to experience the beautiful creatures within our world’s oceans.

My journey started with the passing of my wife, Isabelle. After attending James Madison University, she moved to Miami, Florida. This is when Isabelle became mesmerized by the sea, obtained her diving certification and spent many wonderful experiences in the serene element of the ocean that only a diver can understand.

Shortly after her death I pondered what to do for her final resting place. Isabelle did not note any specific desires, but I knew in her heart and in mine there could only be one place, the sea. After considering several options such as scattering of ashes from a boat I finally came across a place called Neptune Memorial Reef. The Neptune reef is located off the coast of Miami, roughly 3.5 miles east of Key Biscayne and approximately 45 feet below the surface. I won’t attempt to describe the location as I probably won’t do it justice, but I will refer you to their website below to view the pictures and videos. Simply put, it is an amazing place you must see for yourself.

As we entered the water and slowly descended, we began to see the outline of the beautiful memorial park. It’s colossal entry ways, the large lion standing silently in the distance…”

For those reading this post, though under sad circumstances, this has probably been one of the most amazing journeys I have experienced. Over the course of the past year I attended training with Compass Dive and Sail who were so very supportive and touched by the story of my wife and my desire to place her in the sea she so loved. They have become more than just instructors, as I consider myself to be part of their diving circle and family. During the past year I also went down to Ft. Lauderdale to take Isabelle’s ashes to mix into a Sea Shell mold that would eventually be her final tomb. Two months later I was in Miami with family as we were prepared for the dive.

The morning before our dive my sons Raymond, Matthew, and Andrew along with my sister-in-law Julie, attended a Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) experience so they too could participate in the placement ceremony. Then on the afternoon of July 17th, my family and I boarded the dive boat and embarked on our journey to Neptune Memorial Reef. Though there was a sense of sadness in the air, there was also a sense of anticipation, excitement, and wonder knowing we were going to step into a world we’ve never seen or experienced. As we first arrived, we could see dark areas below the surface which were the highest points of the man-made reef. As we entered the water and slowly descended, we began to see the outline of the beautiful memorial park. It’s colossal entry ways, the large lion standing silently in the distance, the new large column walkways added just the previous week. All of these visual symbols came into our view as we approached the benches where the shell was to be deployed. As our descent ended, we gathered as our director placed her shell into its eternal resting place. We assembled and watched during the placement and gazed as the fish swam around their newest neighbor. I’m sure for each of us, we pondered the love and memories we’ve cherished with Isabelle.

My sister-in-law stated, she would never be able to describe to anyone the overwhelming experience that she had entering the sea, of seeing the Neptune Memorial and the emotion she felt being under the waves with our family.

For me, being able to scuba dive into the ocean for the first time, knowing how much she treasured those moments, made this experience one I can truly never forget and, in some ways, has redefined who I am as a person.  As a sailor I’ve always been fond of the ocean, but with my new-found love of diving I’m sure I’ll be back again soon to the Neptune Memorial reef, and as I cherish Isabelle’s memory she will also join me on other exotic diving journeys…

Raymond Jones – Open Water Student, June 2018