Richard Hyatt: Cemetery's new policy creates buzz

July 5, 2014 

Most families memorialize a loved one’s grave with a traditional granite headstone, but some people prefer an empty bottle of Jack Daniels and that’s a problem to the workers that cut the grass at Parkhill Cemetery.

Officials at Parkhill recently asked people to police family gravesites so a twice-a-year cleanup could be comfortably completed. The announcement stirred up a small number of folks who have decorated their plots with an assortment of unusual artifacts.

"This is about safety and appearance," said David Grodsky, the cemetery's marketing director. "We have to protect the sanctity of the park."

Crews must be able to maneuver mowers and weed-eaters between graves, which is not as easy as it sounds when solar lights, park benches, shepherd hooks, guitars and other items are brought in from the outside.

"We can't staff every individual grave, so we're asking people not to have displays that infringe on the grass," Grodsky said.

The request, advertised twice in the newspaper, asked site owners to honor the people they love with decorations that would fit in the attached vase or stay within the plot.

This created a social media buzz among those who wanted to be more creative, particularly the idea that cemetery workers were going to move and store items that did not follow the policy.

"We will tag and save everything," Grodsky said.

This is an emotional issue. It's your plot and if you regularly change the flowers in the vases and hire a landscaper to keep the grass trimmed, you do not want someone telling how to keep alive the memory of someone you love.

One grieving mother created what she called a Grief Garden at the rear of the cemetery, near her son's plot. It gave her a reason to get out of bed after he was killed and providing a place where others found peace warmed her heart.

No one bothered her little garden for two years. The new policy changed all of that. Now she writes about feeling like she has been thrown under the bus.

Grodsky is interested in maintenance and keeping the appearance of the cemetery uniform, an effort that is hard for grieving family members to accept. It reminds us that some people's knick-knacks are another person's treasure and no one's policy is going to change that.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at hyatt31906@knology.net.

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