via Loved one’s grave may need stranger’s care, clarionledger.com
Sharp-eyed readers may remember that a few weeks ago I wrote about a perpetual care cemetery in Meridian that had been the subject of enforcement by the Mississippi secretary of state’s office after failing to keep up the maintenance on a cemetery housing some of Meridian’s oldest families (and the final resting place of the late U.S. Rep. G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery).
If you have a loved one interred in one of Mississippi’s hundreds of cemeteries, whether the gravesite is maintained can be sketchy. In many cases, graveyard owners and management companies do an exceptional job maintaining the cemetery and individual gravesites. For others, unfortunately, maintenance is a constant struggle. Especially in many older cemeteries and those without a standing custodial organization such as a church cemetery association, neglect is rampant.
Many of my passed-on ancestors and relatives lie in a number of church and family cemeteries in Lincoln and Pike counties. Recently, upon visiting my late brother’s grave in an old church cemetery, I noticed a large oak branch had fallen across the grave after a storm, the stone was partially covered by a fire-ant mound, and many of the headstones were sinking unevenly into the ground. Looking around the old cemetery, it’s obvious someone had mowed fairly recently, but many of the graves were overgrown, with some low-lying stones covered by creeping grass. Some stones were broken and darkened to the point that their inscriptions were illegible. In stark contrast, other graves nearby had been lovingly maintained, probably by family members.
After I wrote the column about the Meridian cemetery, I got an interesting comment from a company called Heaven’s Maid. This innovative company will — for an annual fee ranging from $39 to $89 — ensure your loved one’s grave is maintained.
Heaven’s Maid was started by two Michigan friends, Sabah Ammouri and Michael Goliszek, who wanted to do something after Ammouri visited his grandparents’ graves, only to find the gravesite overgrown with weeds and moss, which made the inscription illegible. Ammouri contacted Goliszek, and the pair started the web-based Heaven’s Maid, one of several similar businesses that have risen to meet the increasing demand for individualized gravesite service.
Heaven’s Maid says it’ll scrub the headstone, edge around it and level it out. It also promises to remove weeds around the stone, fertilize the ground around it and remove debris. For another fee, it’ll place silk flowers on the grave. Once the work is done, it’ll send you a photo to confirm it, and you can use its site to post pictures and memories of your loved one.
This service is designed especially for those who live far from where their loved ones are buried. “We believe every resting place should be treated with care and respect,” Goliszek told me. Currently, the company provides services in 10 states, including Mississippi, and is working on partnerships with 164 cemeteries. Visitors to the site can search for a local cemetery and request it be added.
Goliszek noted the company hires and trains freelancers to provide services, and works with cemeteries to ensure caretakers adhere to industry standard rules and practices. For example, it would be easy for an untrained person to damage a headstone by using the wrong cleaning materials or techniques, or to violate cemetery policies by failing to obtain permission to do the work.
The gravesite maintenance business is a relatively new niche market, but is growing fast, with several companies having arisen to meet the demand. In many cemeteries that provide excellent care, these services would be unnecessary. But this growing need could signal a profitable venture for entrepreneurs willing to work hard and provide excellent customer service.