2009
11.19

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This week’s near-desecration of graves in the LaFayette cemetery is just another display of heartlessness and incompetence from the city’s leadership.

During the October city council meeting, councilman Wayne Swanson called for a motion to require people to clean up after their pets while visiting the cemetery. Swanson then, according to the council minutes, “also asked Richard Moore to monitor objects and other items being placed on or near graves.”

Moore, director of public works, went beyond just “monitoring” the objects and other items, proceeding directly to “removing” them entirely. City employees and state prisoners worked together to collect the flowers, marble benches, troll dolls, and whatnot from each and every grave in the city’s burial ground, sweeping it clean of everything except grass, stone and confederate flags. The city had previously announced that those items would be stored off-site, but everything pulled from graves went into the garbage.

Once this error was discovered the mayor and city manager made problems worse by telling residents they could be compensated for the lost items by bringing in receipts and filing claims. This response is almost as insulting as disposing of the objects since nobody is likely to have kept receipts for items left on a grave site. Requiring a receipt is just the city manager’s way to avoid paying thousands of dollars in restitution out of the public works budget.

Even more shameful than the disposal of sacred objects from loved-ones’ graves is the condition of the cemetery itself. The long-abandoned cemetery office, dilapidated gazebo, dead limbs laying around, uneven ground from sunken graves, and above-ground grave ledgers with gaps and visible space beside and beneath them all add up to a hallowed ground that disrespects everyone lying within it. Instead of focusing so much on flowers and flags (or GPS for garbage trucks) the city should invest in a few truckloads of topsoil to even up the ground and tear down (or at least paint) unsafe and unsightly structures that dot the graveyard landscape.

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  1. I agree that the cemetery needs better maintenance but disagree about the removal of the junk decorating the graves. This is a fairly recent trend and I have no idea what it represents or how it helps the living expunge their anger and guilt — placing all sorts of cheap, foreign made bric a brac on a loved one’s grave. Why not pay to plant a tree in a national forest, donate to Ladybird Johnson’s wildflower project in Texas, create a simple memorial garden in one’s own yard, or donate to any of thousands of environmental preservation organizations in the name of the departed loved one?

  2. Some people take comfort in the “bric-a-brac”. I know that when my husband died a couple members of his family found comfort in bringing things and putting them on his grave. It makes them feel like they are giving to and are connected to the deceased person. It also gives them a sense of belonging to that site, the grave has their belongings there, it is theirs and seeing things of theirs is comforting in an uncomfortable situation. Not everybody deals with grief and the afterlife the same way. I think there should be standards and rules as to what can be placed there and for how long, but denying people that chance to grieve in that way is not right either.