After losing her seriously ill 4-year-old son to medical complications, a grieving mother saved up her last pennies to buy him a gravestone. However, as soon as the city received another family’s complaint, they immediately called a stonemason to remove it.
Max Corbett-Gardener wasn’t your average 4-year-old. The little boy from Malvern in the UK suffered serious medical complications, including severe epilepsy, which eventually took his life. Nonetheless, young Max brought his mother great joy, and she was determined to honor his short legacy with one last tribute.
Skrimping and saving every last penny, 42-year-old Jo Corbett purchased a personalized headstone, featuring a teddy bear clutching a star. The $3,800 marker perfectly captured Max’s personality and was intended as a gift from his grieving mother on what would’ve been his seventh birthday. However, Jo’s comfort was quickly cut short when the city caught wind of her little gift.
According to the Daily Mail, Jo received a letter informing her that the city council had ordered a stonemason to tear down her son’s headstone because the design violated the cemetery’s ambiance. Apparently, the council made the decision after just one complaint from another family was filed, alleging that the marker was not “in keeping” with the rest of the gravestones.
“We have a conformity of shapes in our lawn cemetery,” a spokesman said. “We were contacted by people who objected to the shape. The longer it stayed up, the harder the process would have been. It was a very difficult decision to remove it but one we had to make straight away.”
The headstone had only been up for three days when Jo watched as it was ripped up from her son’s grave at the Great Malvern Cemetery. The marker had been erected in the adult area of the cemetery because the mother wanted her son to be buried near his relatives. The council admitted that, if the star was in the children’s area, it would’ve been allowed to remain.
“I chose a star-shaped stone because I wanted something suitable for Max – something personal. This stone is just so perfect for my poor little chap,” Jo said. “I was totally unaware this was going on. The council did not contact me and it was the stonemason who told me he’d been ordered to remove it.”
Outraged and devastated over the headstone’s removal, Jo called on the city to reinstate the marker. However, the council has refused, pointing to the single complaint about keeping a certain atmosphere in the cemetery.
“It wasn’t necessarily an objection to the shape but why we appeared to be applying one rule to one family and other rules to another,” a council spokesman said. “The stonemason in this situation did not have permission to put the stone up – and the stone is not in keeping with the graves in that area. By not following the correct process he has caused considerable distress to both families.”
The council claims it discussed a new design for a headstone with Jo. However, she created a petition to reinstate the stone, which garnered over 60,000 signatures.
Sadly, Jo’s hardships were far from over. Almost 3 years to the day that she had lost Max, her teenage daughter was killed. Seventeen-year-old Zoe Shapiro was hit by a van, which ran a red light while crossing the street in front of her father’s house on her way to school.
“I am numb.” Joe said. “To lose one child is awful but to lose two in three years is more pain than I can begin to express.
Understandably, her mother was devastated to lose her only daughter just one week before the anniversary of her son’s death. Still, she must stay strong for her surviving son, 5-year-old TJ, who is also dealing with the loss of his two siblings.
Jo has displayed an almost superhuman strength in fighting adversity and tragedy after tragedy. Despite losing two children and a battle against her own city over the grave of her little boy, she continues to press on for her only surviving child.
It’s outrageous to think that a city council would side with one offended family simply because they didn’t like looking at a child’s headstone. It’s hard to think of anything more insensitive and mean-spirited than demanding a child’s gravestone be removed from your sight because it doesn’t please your sensibilities.