The tiny drifts of white powder are scattered around the grounds.
They’re calcium deposits — remnants of the more than 6,000 people whose ashes have been sprinkled on the grounds of Miami-Dade County’s cemetery since it was opened in 1994.
The county grounds, at 6000 SW 87th Ave., are where people without next of kin are laid to rest, after they’ve been cremated by the county. It used to be a tangle of undergrowth and weeds, but now a space has been carved out for remembering the dead.
On Friday, volunteers, veteran groups and county employees gathered to celebrate the opening of a scatter garden on the grounds.
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“We wanted it to be a place of dignity,” said Adrianne Vyasulu, social worker for VITAS Healthcare, a sponsor of the garden.
Now, ashes have a designated spot within the inner ring of the garden, outside the flower-crested monument in the center, surrounded by a gleaming white gravel path and freshly planted flowers.
The garden was a collaboration between volunteers, veteran groups and VITAS Healthcare, but it was the brainchild of Vyasulu and Sandra Witty, the indigent cremation coordinator for Miami-Dade.
They wanted to create a special place to sprinkle ashes, as well as a visiting place for relatives who belatedly discover the death of an estranged loved one.
“The whole dream is, even when we die we matter,” Vyasulu said.
The color guard and military personnel appeared in full uniform to pay tribute to the section of the grounds dedicated to veterans.
Buckets of roses and chrysanthemums were placed near the slate-gray monument that read “dedicated to those who serve.” Behind the monument were two flagpoles bearing an American flag and POW/MIA flag.
“The military that are interred here — the county has not forgotten them,” said Dr. Bruce Hyma, Miami-Dade chief medical examiner.
Part of the improvement project added solar-powered lights to the flagpoles and more landscaping to the veteran area.
During the ceremony, Edwin S. Vasci Gonzalez, part of the veteran empowerment group The Mission Continues, invited all attending veterans to take a second oath to serve their community.
“I know what we do every day when we are serving, and I know what we can do when we come back,” he said.
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