Recently our cemetery announced proposed rules. But not just any rules. These are rules. Because the last set of rules prohibited horses in the cemetery. The new rules were requested by the current cemetery caretaker who is a nice young man overwhelmed by the amount of decorations and plantings around gravesites at our cemetery. The sheer number of items and decorations on and around the graves make it difficult for him to keep the graves neat looking and properly trimmed.
At first, I was outraged. The rules proposed banning all artificial flowers, all grave decorations, all solar lights, shepherd's hooks, wreaths, benches, etc. All that would have been allowed were fresh flowers and artificial flowers for a two week period around major recognized holidays. Well, you better bet I did my duty as a citizen and showed up at the city commission meeting (who oversees the cemetery) and voiced my opposition to these rules. Why? Because we have a bench, a wreath, a shepherd's hook, solar lights, a rock border, artificial flowers and tons of little birthday and Christmas gifts scattered along the lip and rocks bordering our headstone where Wyatt rests. Eli rests at our feet and has a flat stone so we are unable to put anything at his stone. You know what happened? The commission decided to form a committee of people both for and against the proposed rules to hash it out.
I volunteered to serve on that committee because I felt so strongly about my opinion that I wanted to be part of the change, whether for good or bad. So through the course of about six hours over two meetings, which included a walk through of the cemetery to see and listen to the caretaker show us why he believed the policy was needed, we came up with a new proposed set of rules. There were tears and disagreement during our meetings. Three of us opposed the rules and three supported them. We were different ages and tended many different kinds of graves. We listened carefully to the opinion of the caretaker and he listened to us.
The end result was a set of rules which is respectful to those who choose to remember their deceased with flowers and items but respectful of the caretaker and those who were seeking a neater looking cemetery by limiting the kind and scale of these items. We have taken our bench, shepherd's hook, solar lights and many small tokens home. We cleaned up most of our rock border but left the marigolds we planted this summer. We'll plant more again next summer along with some moss rose and we'll leave fresh flowers for the boys' birthdays which can then be mowed over later.
I was forced to look at the cemetery and my own displays of grief from a different perspective. Did my boys need all of those things I put out there for them? No, they were for me. But did they really do anything real for my grief? Probably not. It was therapeutic to remove many of the items which were faded but my own grief had prevented me from removing them. I just couldn't take anything else from the boys who were taken from me. I also was able to see that I searched for items that were being marketed to me as a grieving person and I don't really like that there is such a large market aimed at grieving people. It already takes a lot of money to lose a loved one.
I am excited for the spring when all of the graves are cleaned up and our gravestone can finally be neatly trimmed more often than not by the mower, rather than having to rely on a hand trimmer because our bench and rock border were in the mower's way and of course with four young kids at home we don't get to tend to the grave as often as we would like to. I want it to look neat and respectful. I told the caretaker that he has a special job, he is caring for our loved ones' resting places in our absence and that is a labor of love.
I was able to present the new set of rules to the commission, tell my story and explain why I supported the rules even though I would give up so much to abide by them. I think it was a powerful position to take and one I hope that eased other's pain a little as they approach their own loved ones' graves this fall.
Change is change. It is not always bad and more often than not an opportunity to find good or start anew.