Perpetual Care Isn’t What You Think It Is

A lot of cemeteries offer perpetual care (sometimes known as endowed or permanent care) – in fact, some state regulations require it. However, the idea of perpetual care is often misunderstood and it’s important to know what is and is not covered when you purchase your lot. Or niche. Or crypt. Or mausoleum. There’ll be something to suit your needs no matter what you’re interested in!

Simply put, perpetual care funds are used for general maintenance and repair of cemetery grounds. For example, mowing and lawn care during the growing season would fall under perpetual care, as would upkeep of roads, paths and signage. Some cemeteries may use funds to repair fallen headstones or raise sunken grave markers but this is not common practice. The family is responsible for the headstone and for keeping the gravesite clean and neat. The family is also responsible for brightening up the lot (or niche, crypt, and mausoleum) with fresh/artificial flowers every so often. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see your decorations on the next visit though, since cemetery management has the right to remove said decorations if they are an impediment to their maintenance routine or don’t add to the overall attractiveness of the grounds (you know who you are…).

When I describe my services, a lot of people tell me that they have perpetual care and I always explain that perpetual care isn’t what they think it is. Maybe a picture can help illustrate this point. We cleaned the gravesite of a client’s loved one last summer a few days after the weekly mowing. This is what the grave marker looked like before:


So the cemetery staff definitely mowed the grounds. Then the wind promptly blew the grass clippings all over the grave marker. After we applied some TLC though, the grave marker looked like this:


See what a difference some good old-fashioned cleaning can do? So while I agree most perpetual care cemeteries are beautifully maintained, I tell my customers that if they look closely, they’ll get a different view. I suppose some care is better than none. I just think a gravetender’s care is better than most.


No Fake Flowers In Cemeteries?


Most cemeteries have specific rules regarding grave decorations which state what one can and cannot leave at the gravesite. Fresh flowers are mostly OK, but some graveyards strictly prohibit fake flowers, plantings and anything glass or plastic. These policies are put in place to help with maintenance (especially during mowing season) as well as to give the cemetery a certain ‘look.’ But these rules can be annoying for folks that lean on the creative side:

Behind the long ribbon of the cemetery wall all is quiet and damp and very grey. Rising from the ground at a hundred different angles, the headstones of Kensal Green, north-west London, are softened by lichen, moss and  mildew. Beyond the older graves, this sombre scene is suddenly brightened by tropical splashes of colour: artificial yellow tulips, plastic poinsettia, fake lily of the valley, great sprays of plastic roses and other indeterminate artificial shrubs and flowers in vivid orange, purple and red.

The proliferation of plastic flowers bedecking ever more elaborate graveside memorials, featuring Pooh bears, T-shirts, flags, pictures and poems and windchimes and windmills, has sprung from a growing individualism, the mourning of Princess Diana, the spread of foreign traditions and even health and safety regulations that forbid glass and metal in graveyards. For many people these vibrant, personal displays are a vital expression of their relationship with the deceased. For others they are kitsch, shouty and intrusive.

Modern graves are far more humble – and more individualistic. In Kensal Green, they feature everything from a rain-soaked toy Eeyore left for a –  presumably grumpy – grandad to framed pictures of dogs, snow globes, Chelsea T-shirts, caps and earmuffs.

One is adorned with a picture of a sunset, a poem for “mum” and a small half-drunk bottle of Glenfiddich. A memorial to a 21-year-old boy is dominated by a T-shirt hanging from a wooden cross with “playboy” on it; around his headstone is a lantern, a model flute-player on top of a wind chime, a poem and great splashes of colour from plastic floral arrangements.

Dr Kate Woodthorpe, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Bath, says such decorations are mourners “staking their claim” and emphasising that their loved one was important – and an individual.

“There are competing expectations about grief. For some people it’s about moving on. For others it’s about an ongoing relationship,” she says. “There is a view of stages of grief that ends with ‘letting go’. Some people don’t do that. They never will let go, and that is OK.”

I don’t have a problem with fake flowers, plastic windmills or whiskey bottles on a grave. If that’s how you choose to memorialize your loved one, then so be it. However, I think cemetery staff have every right to remove these decorations if they pose a hazard or get blown away by the wind. And really, some of these grave adornments are just hideous (yeah, I said it). But variety is the spice of life (or death?), I suppose.

Anyway, it’s nice to see flowers or other mementos on a grave – it shows that people still care about those they have lost. It’s the thought that counts. So, the next time I’m in a cemetery and I see a large basket filled with fake tulips and plastic bunnies, I’ll just keep it moving. To each their own:)

Do you think fake flowers/plastic decor should be banned in cemeteries?

How To Eat Gummi Bears

Haribo Gold-Bears

This is the proper way to eat gummi bears, specifically, Haribo Gold-Bears. You will need one package of Haribo Gold-Bears, a tongue and a working set of teeth. The instructions are as follows:

1. Open the package of gummi bears.

2. Select two gummi bears of any color except red (the red gummi bears are eaten only after all the other gummi bears have been consumed – I’ll explain why later).

Just the Two of Us

3.  Suck the two gummi bears. Do not chew or bite. You can only chew or bite once  you’ve sucked the gummi bears to the point that you can’t feel their features (ears, nose, hands & feet) on your tongue anymore. Completely dissolving the first two gummi bears in your mouth is the only way to pay homage to the gummi bear gods for allowing you to eat their kin.

4. Select another two gummi bears of any color except red. This time, you can suck/chew/bite them anyway you like.

5. Once you have consumed all the non-red gummi bears, you can eat the red gummi bears. You saved these till last not because they are the best ones, but because their flavor profile is super-strong and tends to over-power the taste of the other gummi bears so they are best eaten alone.

6. To repeat the experience, open another package of Haribo Gold-Bears and see #2.

As a gummi bear connoisseur, I sincerely believe Haribo Gold-Bears are the best brand of gummi bears out there. Here are some interesting facts about them:

1. Flavors – if you thought the green bears are apple flavored like I did then you would be dead wrong like I was. According to Haribo’s site:


– white bear = pineapple (this is my favorite one)

– green bear = strawberry (your guess is as good as mine)

– yellow bear = lemon

– orange bear = orange

– red bear = raspberry (in all honesty, I used to save the red bears till last because I thought they were cherry flavored and I abhor cherry-flavored stuff. I like real cherries but fake cherry flavors – ugh. However, this did not stop me from eating those red bears, no sirree).

2. Haribo is a Turkish company. I used to think the gummi bears were made in China because isn’t everything made in China? Apparently not. Haribo Gold-Bears are European.

3. A frequently asked question of Haribo is “Can I buy just one flavor of Haribo Gold-Bears?” which they answer thusly:

“We don’t package individual flavors of Haribo Gold-Bears. We suggest finding some friends who like the other colors and trading with them!”

Umm. OK.

Happy gummi bear eating!

The Weeds Are Coming

Have you been to the cemetery lately? This is one of my favorite questions since I’m in the business of visiting cemeteries. I know, I know – some people consider gravetending an odd business to be in but I have my reasons. And every now and then, outside parties reinforce my calling, as this story did:

GRAND RAPIDS – Tired of throwing $325,000 per year down a hole in the ground, city officials will consider outsourcing cemetery operations. Also recommended in a consultant’s report is the sale of markers and monuments, which years ago sparked strong public opposition, Grand Rapids administrators said.

“It’s always painful for me to put money into the cemeteries knowing that there has got to be a better way,” Second Ward Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss said.

Grand Rapids is looking to shed an annual general-fund subsidy to support cemetery operations. Among the ideas put forth by New York consultant Lawrence F. Sloane: share cemetery management with an outside group like the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, promote burial grounds as recreational amenities eligible for grant funding and sell gravesite markers to boost revenue.

Because the city has cut spending to the bone in past years, officials now must “look outside the box” for other cost efficiencies, Sloane said.

“There really is nothing left to cut. The (cemetery) offices are closed. You’re down to the minimum possible staff,” he said. “You really have to increase revenues because the revenues are not adequate to cover the cost.”

City Manager Greg Sundstrom said the commission several years ago refused to generate revenue by selling markers and monuments, amid strong lobbying against it. Staff in recent years have focused on the expense side of the ledger, he said.

“We are at a skeletal level of staffing,” Sundstrom said. “The notion here is to focus more on the revenue side, either through increasing opportunities for revenues or through partnerships (with outside groups).”

Grand Rapids has six cemeteries staffed by 3 full-time workers and seasonal help, officials said.

This is why people like me exist…because our cemeteries will soon be overtaken by weeds unless somebody takes care of the lots. As the story illustrates, cemetery maintenance is getting too expensive for some cities and it’s a sad state of affairs. I can’t imagine how three full-time workers can keep up with six cemeteries, especially in the summer time. But have no fear, Gravetender is here! Well, I’m not in Grand Rapids but you get what I’m saying – call on me and I’ll come running. With me on the job, your loved ones final resting place will be free of weeds, dead leaves and tree branches, the headstone will be cleaned or polished and a fresh bunch of flowers will be left at the gravesite (or faux flowers, depending on cemetery rules).

Oh wait, how did this post turn into a shameless plug to get customers? I was originally trying to highlight the fact that our cemeteries are dying (no pun intended). Soon, and I’m talking in the next 20 years, your grandparents’ and parents’ headstones will likely be in a forgotten or abandoned graveyard, covered by dead branches and trash. Scary, isn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. Call me and I’ll tell you why.

Call me. Now.


Know Your Neighbour

Cover of "Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman"

Cover of Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman

Would you recognize your neighbour if you were standing behind them in the check-out lane at the grocery store? What if they were in the car next to yours at the red light? I hate to admit it but I’m not sure I would. Oh, I would know Dale, the elderly gentleman who lives to our left and maintains a meticulous lawn all year. And I would recognize whatsisname who lives to our right and grills about once a week in his back yard, rain or shine. But the neighbour three or four doors down? I doubt it.

There are seven billion people on our planet – our world is so big and at the same time so small. And with technological leaps in communication, we hardly ever talk to each other anymore. Why call when you can text? Why talk when you can email? We don’t truly concern ourselves with each other these days, whether we are neighbours, friends or family. This lack of connection then leads to these kinds of tragic situations:

Yvette Vickers, an early Playboy playmate whose credits as a B-movie actress included such cult films as “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” and “Attack of the Giant Leeches,” was found dead last week at her Benedict Canyon home. Her body appears to have gone undiscovered for months, police said.

Vickers, 82, had not been seen for a long time. A neighbor discovered her body in an upstairs room of her Westwanda Drive home on April 27. Its mummified state suggests she could have been dead for close to a year, police said.

Susan Savage, an actress, went to check on Vickers after noticing old letters and cobwebs in her elderly neighbor’s mailbox. “The letters seemed untouched and were starting to yellow,” Savage said. “I just had a bad feeling.”

After pushing open a barricaded front gate and scaling a hillside, Savage peered through a broken window with another piece of glass taped over the hole. She decided to enter the house after seeing a shock of blond hair, which turned out to be a wig. The inside of the home was in disrepair and it was hard to move through the rooms because boxes containing what appeared to be clothes, junk mail and letters formed barriers, Savage said. Eventually, she made her way upstairs and found a room with a small space heater still on.She was looking at a cordless phone that appeared to have been knocked off its cradle when she first saw the body on the floor, she said. Savage had known Vickers but the remains were unrecognizable, she said. She remembered her neighbor as an elegant women in a broad straw hat, dressed in white, with flowing blond hair and “a warm smile.”“She kept to herself, had friends and seemed like a very independent spirit,” Savage said. “To the end she still got cards and letter from all over the world requesting photos and still wanting to be her friend.”

Savage said the neighbors felt terrible.

“We’ve all been crying about this,” she said. “Nobody should be left alone like that.”

Yes…nobody should be left alone like that but they are and sadly it happens all the time. So check on your neighbours every now and then, especially if you haven’t seen them for a while and their home is starting to look unkempt. You could save a life with just a hello and a smile.

RIP Yvette Vickers.

Game On.


No, I’m not jumping on the Rick Santorum band wagon – but I am using his words to describe my attitude towards 2012. A new year is upon us and it comes with exciting anticipation of good things to come. It also brings with it the feeling of more of the same…you know – been there, lived that. But it is only Day 4 of 2012 so I shall strive not to let my cynicism jade the good vibes of the year. 2012 already has more newness and shine than 2011 so how bad can it be?

I didn’t make any resolutions this year. Actually, I gave up the bad habit of making New Year’s resolutions about three years ago because I realized it was just a set up for failure. I found that it was pointless to resolve myself to life-changing behaviors in the drunken haze of a New Year’s Eve early morning only to give up on those life-changing behaviors a month later. OK, who am I kidding – a week later. Anyway, to all those who did make New Year’s resolutions for 2012, I wish you the best. Game on.

Instead of making resolutions I now engage in positive thinking sessions. Basically I just think of all the things that I want in 2012 and brainstorm on how I can make them happen. I will tackle each desire one step at a time, taking it slow and not giving up. I will push through the obstacles with tenacity and determination. There may be setbacks every now and then but I will stare them down. Game on.

This idea of consistent positive thinking is a radical change from my prior last-minute New Year’s Eve resolution-making activities…and I really think it has to do with how much I’ve had to drink on said New Year’s Eve. This year I was fairly sober so I’m sure that will bode well for my future. Also I watched a lot of Oprah during the holidays so that probably had something to do with it. I like Oprah.

Game on.

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions?