Some cemetery rules not right

Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011

I am writing in response to some rules the City of Soldotna is proposing for the Soldotna cemetery, namely: (1) the prohibition against artificial flowers; (2) the fact the cemetery is to be inaccessible seven months out of the year; and, (3) the suggestion that someone can't resell one of their plots.

These rules might seem benign to those of you lucky enough to not have lost loved ones. But for those of us who have, they would be devastating. For example, not being able to visit my daughter Laura who is laid to rest in Kasilof anytime I wanted would be a tremendous burden. Knowing her sisters, who frequently come to Alaska only in the winter, could not go visit Laura would be equally devastating. The purpose of a cemetery isn't so much about providing for the dead as it is providing a place for the living to grieve, remember and show their love. And I want to do this 365 days out of the year.

As for artificial flowers, I agree that in a climate where flowers could bloom throughout the season, a ban on artificial flowers might be appropriate. However in Alaska, where a fall gravesite looks barren, cold and lonely, not allowing some color is just sad. While I understand and indeed applaud the efforts of the public to "go green" and support natural foliage over artificial, placing these priorities above my need to see my daughter's grave site look warm and colorful is wrong. Does it really matter that the Christmas Wreath I lay on Laura's grave every Christmas is artificial? Or, if it does matter doesn't the fact that I feel better seeing that same Wreath in January looking alive and well and not dead and brown, matter more?

And finally, knowing that I have the flexibility of purchasing more plots around Laura's grave is a great comfort to someone my age. I want to be able to plan so I can be laid to rest not only by Laura but also by my other children, or my grandchildren. The purpose for taking away this kind of flexibility is beyond me.

To those of you who see this as "much ado about nothing," I would encourage you to consider how you will feel when you can't visit your loved ones' final place of rest for seven months out of the year. How will you feel when knowing there is an empty plot next to where your daughter is buried that you can't purchase for yourself due to some arbitrary rule? And will it be worth it to you to see your daughter's grave look dead and cold in the winter months just so the "powers that be" can say the overall cemetery is "natural"?

If I am taking this personally, it's because the freedom to honor and love and tend to those who have passed on before us is a very personal issue. And it should be to you too.

Mavis Lancaster, Soldotna

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