'I couldn’t believe it': Leamington cemetery to close to visitors for Mother’s Day
WINDSOR, ONT. -- A Leamington cemetery is facing backlash from families after deciding to close to visitors on Mother’s Day, which is typically the busiest day of the year.
Evergreen Memorial Park in Leamington put up signs this week, advising guests that the cemetery will be closed Sunday as part of pandemic protocols.
Evergreen Memorial Park management issued a statement on its Facebook page Saturday.
"The decision to close our gates outside regular of business hours is not one that we have made lightly, but it is the decision that we believe is the right one to adhere to the Provincial mandate, protect those with loved ones at the cemetery, and ourselves," reads the post from management of the cemetery.
It’s a very upsetting prospect for Sabrina Wilhelm, who has been visiting her son’s grave at Evergreen Memorial Park for 16 years. She also recently laid her grandmother to rest.
"I want to be here tomorrow. It’s tradition," Wilhelm says. "We’ve always come up on Mother’s Day. It’s something I’ve always done, my family has always done."
A few days ago Wilhelm learned that won’t be possible, taking to Facebook to voice her displeasure.
"I found it disturbing. I was very emotionally distraught. I started shaking immediately. I couldn’t believe it," she says.
She’s not alone.
The Brown family has been visiting its mother and father’s grave on this occasion for 28 years.
"Mother’s Day is the day everybody wants to come and lay flowers for their mother," says Carol Stroud. "And he has chosen that day, for whatever reason, not to let us in."
Evergreen Memorial Park management says it made the decision based on new guidelines from the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO).
"In the name of safety in the third wave, we’ve said to people, look: cemeteries may be closed on Mother’s Day," says David Brazeau, the communications manager for the BAO. "We know how hard this is on you, but please respect that, because it’s for your safety."
Brazeau says the new guidelines echo the province’s most recent stay-at-home order, noting cemeteries are private operators who can close when they feel it’s right to do.
"We’re recommending that if you can, find another day to come and visit your loved one or your deceased mom rather than on Mother’s Day, because that will be the most dangerous day, quite frankly, to be at a cemetery," Brazeau says, citing crowds that most cemeteries aren’t equipped or well-enough staffed to control.
But the Brown family says they plan to visit their mother, whether the gates are open or closed.
"This is Mother’s Day. Our mom is here. We come every year. And we’re coming," says Pam Kirchhoefer. "And if we have to go over that damn fence, we will go over that fence."
The cemetery plans to reopen Monday, with staff on site from 8 a.m. until noon.