If you have ever visited a grave, chances are that as you traveled through the cemetery, you noticed flowers, wreaths, or even personal items at various gravesites. I always think about the families or individuals who leave the items, the heartbreak they've been through, especially if it's obvious that it's a child's or infant's grave.

I know this from personal experience as it is almost 25 years to the day that my son died at birth. The ability to either go to his grave or have flowers placed on holidays is powerful for me. It is all I will ever have of him. It is the proof that he existed and that he was loved.

Imagine my response when I read on a Facebook post, by Jessica Collins Paterson, that apparently, personal items have not only been removed from gravesites at St. Peter's Cemetery in Poughkeepsie, allegedly without family members' knowledge, but that they were also simply tossed in a dumpster. Jessica Collins Paterson took photos of these items on a Saturday morning. This is some of what she found.

photos courtesy of Jessica Collins Paterson
photos courtesy of Jessica Collins Paterson

I called St. Peter's Cemetery to speak with someone and was directed to call the Archdiocese of New York. Upon reaching the Director of Communications of the Archdiocese, Joseph Zwilling, I was told that the cemetery is run by the local parish and is not under the direction of the Archdiocese.

That being said, Mr. Zwilling stated that copies of the rules clearly spell out what can and cannot be left at gravesites and that these copies can be found throughout the cemetery. It is for the safety of the workers as well as to maintain the appearance of the cemetery.

While we all understand about rules and safety issues, it appears that many of these items had been there for a long time. Why the seemingly sudden enforcement of the rules? Were the families notified? Why wouldn't the cemetery place these items left for love, honor and memory in a holding area and give families an opportunity to claim them?

As of this writing, we have no answers to those questions.

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