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The Globe and Mail

Mementos banned after cemetery grounds ‘got insane’ in B.C.

Does Uncle Vern really need another plastic mini-vase?

Officials at two British Columbia cemeteries are asking mourners to stop loading up the graves of their loved ones with unsightly tchotchkes.

The National Post reports that staff at Campbell River's cemeteries will be sweeping them clean of "all non-conforming items." That means you, loose photos, crucifixes and desiccated carnations.

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Nothing but fresh wreaths and flowers will be spared, writes Brian Hutchinson, and mourners are getting a year to pick up their "illicit gravesite tchotchkes" at a municipal building. The cemetery rules aren't particularly harsh and the problem actually grew here when enforcement slipped. "The graveyard is festooned with statuary, candelabra, bird feeders, flags, plastic toys, pinwheels and balloons," writes Hutchinson of one site.

Local funeral director Sandy Poelvoorde told the Post that "things really got insane" with guests imposing baubles on their dead: "We have a natural compulsion to memorialize our dead, but if one person is allowed to do something outside the rules, someone else will try and push the envelope a little more."

Mourners outdoing each other? Apparently, with fenced-off gardens and other accoutrements left out for their fellow guests to trip over.

Propriety has long been an issue at celebrity-filled cemeteries such as Père Lachaise in Paris. Female visitors besmirched Oscar Wilde's monument with bright lipstick kisses until authorities erected a glass barrier two years ago.

The mother of them all, though, is the whisky and cigarette-piled gravestone of Jim Morrison. "Families who own nearby tombs have long campaigned for his remains to be evicted, complaining that his fans smoke marijuana, drink beer and liquor and generally behave badly," wrote the New York Times' Alan Riding back in 1993; Morrison's still here, though.

Few readers of the Campbell River story sided with the trinket-happy mourners but one who did wrote, "North America is clearly so uptight they're unable to thoroughly explore the grieving process. 'To each his own,' may you never know their pain, tributes help keep these individuals memory alive and show someone cares."

Still, the pervasive attitude was summed up by one commenter like this: "Get rid of all that crap. What good does it do?"

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