Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gram, did you see who took your flowers?

Published May 26, 2008

"They did it again."
It was my mother on the phone. She called to tell me that my father had just gotten back from the cemetery where my grandmother is buried.
He went to pick up the pot of violas they had put on my grandmother's grave for Mother's Day.
My mom thought the tiny little pansies were a fitting flower because they look so much like the African violets my grandma liked so well.
And my father had gone out to pick them up because the sign in St. Mary's Cemetery in Elyria Township said that all flowers had to be removed by May 19.
Except when he got there, the flowers were gone.
That's what my mom was talking about on the phone. For the third Mother's Day in a row, someone stole the flowers she and my father had put on my grandma's grave.
"Who would do such a thing?" my mom asked me.
Three years ago, the first Mother's Day after my grandma died, they put a pot of geraniums, another of my grandma's favorites, on her grave. It was stolen.
The next Mother's Day, my parents once again put geraniums on the grave, never thinking the plant would get stolen again.
It did.
So this year, my mom decided to try another flower. Maybe it was geraniums the thieves were after.
Enter - and soon exit - the tiny pansies.
I echo my mom's sentiment: Who would do such a thing?
What do people do? Scrounge around graveyards for their yearly landscaping?
The flowers that my parents put on other grandmothers' graves - in St. Joseph Cemetery in Amherst and Calvary Cemetery in Sheffield Township - weren't stolen.
I called the office of Catholic Cemeteries, which owns both Calvary and St. Mary's cemeteries, to see if it got a lot of stolen-flower complaints.
"We don't," a woman named Peggy told me, "but it would be hard to catch people even if we did.
"We don't have patrols there in the evenings. They are there during the day but we really can't approach people who are taking flowers off a grave. We don't know if they are family members or not," she said.
"If we see something suspicious - like people loading flowers into a van - we do check that out," she said.
It was beginning to look as if the situation was hopeless.
My hunch is that thieves aren't singling out my grandma. It's just that others aren't complaining about it.
"So what can my mom do when she wants to put flowers on the grave?" I asked.
"She could get one of those in-ground bouquet holders and put fresh or artificial flowers in it," Peggy told me.
She must have sensed my disappointment because she added, "I'm really sorry that happened."
Still finding it hard to believe there have been no other "grave robbing" complaints, I called the Lorain County sheriff's office, which has jurisdiction over Elyria Township where the cemetery is located.
But, once again, I was told they don't get complaints about stolen flowers. Stolen brass urns, yes, but not stolen flowers.
When I relayed all this to my mom, she said, "That's OK. We learned our lesson. We won't be putting flowers out there again until their anniversary in August, but when we do, they'll be in one of those in-ground holders."
Hopefully, thieves will leave those flowers alone.
Until then, if you see a big beautiful basket of tiny little yellow pansies on someone's porch, think of my grandma.
There's a chance they were meant for her.

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