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As one who carried the torch, maintaining family grave sites when I still lived in the area I grew up in, I didn’t realize I was part of a dying breed. I live hundreds of miles away now, for nearly two decades. I’ve been doing some online genealogy compilation of my ancestry, and am distressed at the grave site photos of my family members. These days, it seems the younger family members don’t ever visit their family grave sites, don’t place flowers on family veterans’ graves on special holidays, and now don’t even trim the weeds growing over top the stones. The stones photos are sad reminders of my own dysfunctional family relationships, I guess. Even though my spouse and I are planning cremation, it is for practicality- no family nearby, and not going to be shipping remains to bury in another state. The kids and grandkids are free to move away, and don’t expect anybody will be taking care of graves, were we to even consider traditional cemetery burial with headstones. It makes me feel sad my relatives who didn’t move away can’t be bothered to even clean weeds off my baby sister’s grave. Nor my beloved grandma’s. What gives? Did we raise them so poorly they only care about themselves?


A sweet cousin of mine is a cemetery manager, still lives in the area. Even though it isn’t one of the cemeteries she manages, she offered to do the stone cleaning of my sister’s grave site, and get me a new photo to upload for genealogy records. So appreciative somebody understands how sad the whole neglect thing is. My own sons used to accompany me as children, so they were taught. Two now live in other states as well. I reached out to my sister’s daughter about maybe making a cemetery visit, clean up the gravesite. Obviously, she hasn’t been to her own mother’s grave in many years, as her comment was, she wasn’t aware family was supposed to take care of the grave site. Yikes, have we done such a poor job, not teaching the next generation about respect, and small kindnesses? I’m so disappointed. Yes, times are different, we might say, but my generation worked, raised families, helped older family members, and never thought to have a holiday excluding the older family members. Surely they can’t be busier than we were. Even dysfunctional families made the effort to step up when we became adults. Guess this just reaffirms my intent to not leave behind a maintenance burden, as cemeteries aren’t generally doing the maintenance job. Or barely mow. Trimming around anything, forget that one. Family caregivers, even in death...


What gives?

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I had no idea that the family was supposed to tend the stones. When we rescued mthr from her home 6.5 years ago, I visited the cemetery but didn't do anything. She certainly did not, and my grandmother only put flowers out at Christmas. It was only 2 years ago that I saw something on ancestry about how to clean stones- I didn't know people did that before. I've been putting myself on the back for doing this.

I've visited some very old cemetery sites in the woods that are not maintained. I thought rubbings were how you read stones when they were full of mold & lichens. It's just not a big deal to me and something I'm not concerned about.
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You guys are so kind! Restores my faith in humanity.

Worried, what a horrible thing to have happen! I’d be having a heart attack right on the spot, if it happened to me, I’m afraid. And I’m learning to not assume everybody knows it’s the family’s responsibility to tend to the individual plot and stone, trim away or pull weeds. It’s not difficult, agree it can be therapeutic at times.
Cwillie, I like the forest idea! I know what you mean about scrubbing off and decorating so many gravestones. And I didn’t care for as many as you!
Usedup, yes, families skirt their responsibilities, and don’t change where there’s graves to tend. I planted the seed with my niece about it being tradition for families to tend to the gravesite. How else do these younger people think cemeteries provide as much as they do? The money only goes so far, and many families don’t pay their maintenance fees.
Freqflier, I agree, I also find cemeteries to be interesting. But I fear their days are numbered, as caretaking relatives are dying off, and the younguns often have no interest, or inclination to learn their part in carrying on traditional, customary responsibilities.
Was so glad it was called responsibilities, as that’s exactly what it is. When our offspring grow up, it’s time to assume adult duties.
In my genealogy search, and in looking for a grave tending service option, I was curious about the cemeteries in our community. We moved here from another state less than a year ago. One cemetery has 16 outstanding photo requests on the Find a Grave website. Curiously, I did a quick internet search to find out why so many. Seems it is privately owned, many veterans buried in it. And the owners do nothing. Somebody two years ago organized dozens of volunteers to go in with lawn equipment and cut down and haul out shoulder-high brushy overgrowth! It hadn’t been mowed in years! Geez, if ya don’t want to maintain the cemetery, sell it to somebody who gives a chit! What a disgusting thing to do to families of veterans. Owned by a funeral home, not like it’s owned by a widow on fixed income. I was going to try to get those photo requests filled, but, if it hasn’t been touched in the two years since the mass community volunteer cleanup, I wouldn’t be able to do the cleanup needed to get those photographs. Not with walking with my oxygen and cane. How would I carry the lawn equipment along to clean up the mess?!
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freqflyer Mar 10, 2019
Girlsaylor, I have heard that the Boy Scouts sometimes will do a project like cleaning up a small cemetery. This was years ago, don't know if such a project still exist.
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Girlsaylor, I have been finding the same thing while doing Ancestry/Find a Grave. Some headstones one can barely read due to weather conditions over the past 100 years, or there is too much moss on the stone. I have seen flat ground headstones with grass inching its way over the stone. So many with missing flower holders. And I have seen photos of abandon cemeteries where no one is maintaining them as the owners and volunteers are no longer around.

One thing I have noticed in my family tree, so many families went back to a hometown cemetery to be buried. I must have dozen upon dozen relatives buried in the same cemetery in Galena, Illinois. Same with Iowa.

My sig other helps manage a small cemetery and the cemetery has a lawn service who does come in to mow and trim weekly. The cemetery looks really neat and clean. The late 1800's section which has only a few standing headstones and is located across as very busy street, not so nice as no lawn service is used. The cemetery is trying to get new county zoning to open that section as a cemetery for new sites.... hello, one would think if there are headstones it is already a cemetery. Tangled in red tape.

I find cemeteries very interesting. Yet there are people who feel very uncomfortable visiting a cemetery, even for a funeral, thus they will rarely set foot to visit a loved one's grave. Sig other will get visitors and they can't remember where a loved one has been buried... it's been 20-30 years since their last visit.
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I have a very large family buried in the town cemetery, 45 total. I go three times a year for non veterans and five times for veterans. During the summer I trim, wipe down monuments and place new arrangements. This particular part of the cemetery is located beside a very busy street. I always go and place new arrangements for the veterans. Family members always remark about how nice it looks, but never inquire if anyone knows who does the work. The conversation simply moves on.
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Reply to UsedupDIL
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Most of my family are in the same cemetery, and the fact that it is located down an isolated side road means it is pretty much forgotten unless there is a funeral. After my grandmother passed away (30 years ago) maintenance of the graves seemed to fall to me. The problem for me is that the number of graves just kept growing until it reached a point where buying and replacing floral saddles for everyone just got to be too much. Last year I made a couple of visits and scrubbed the lichens off the stones and pulled a few weeds, I was a little distressed that grass had been blown onto the stones since it would be a simple thing to use a mulching mower instead but with a small rural church you don't dare complain too much. Anyway, if it were up to me they would plant a tree or a shrub on top of everyone and create a forest or a garden for the living to enjoy rather than a desolate wasteland where people are afraid to walk.
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i think it is a combination of things. For one thing, some people think perpetual care is gravesite cleaning. It’s not, it is the mowing and general upkeep of the cemetery not the headstones & individual plots. And it also because not everyone knows that the family is responsible for the upkeep of the headstone.

Here’s a story of what can happen when familt neglects their duties. my maternal grandparents & both sets of maternal great grandparents are buried next to each other in a cemetery 45 minutes away. There might be a great aunt & uncle too (all of the relatives there except for one great grandfather and my grandparents died before I was born so that is why I am not sure who all is there. I did not know them and didn’t go visit until my grandma died in 1987. There are 4 sets of relatives I think). I am the last relative in the area, everyone else has moved 6+ hours away or passed on. The last time my mom & I went out there, we both nearly had heart attacks because we couldn’t find our loved ones! My mom called my aunt in a panic “sister I can’t find mom & dad. What is going on?” My aunt probably thought my mom had lost her mind!! Our loved ones are buried in the row closest to the fence, just feet away from some green houses. (The cemetery is surrounded by a fields). There’s also a statute of Mary nearby. So we knew we were in the right spot. I happened to notice that there were some mounds of dirt near the fence so I start digging with my hands and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a bronze headstone starting to appear!! Our loved ones headstones were buried under a few inches of dirt!!! Mom & were totally unprepared for this, we hadn’t brought shovels or anything. For years, the headstones were fine, there was no dirt and the spade between them and the fence was maintained, there are some flowers against the fence. Unfortunately I do not know if the cemetery removed the dirt. It was a Saturday afternoon and no one was there and my aunt was going to call them on Monday. I do know if she ever did. I keep meaning to go out there with a small shovel, bucket and cleaning supplies. So thanks for the reminder, I’ll try to get out there this week. My MILs headstone was installed last month, she’s about 15 minutes away and we will definitely be taking proper care of her! I have been decorating for every holiday and season, it’s therapeutic and I think she likes it. She always decorated her kitchen for every holiday.
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