Jo Corbett Weeks from Malvern, Worcestershire, U.K., was facing every parent’s worst nightmare. She had lost her 4-year-old son, and now a local family had raised an issue regarding a touching tribute that she had arranged in his memory. What’s more, the local council’s response to the insensitive complaint left her in a state of disbelief.
Maximus James Corbett-Gardener was only four-years-old when he passed away in 2013. His death was caused by complications resulting from his severe epilepsy. Max suffered from the debilitating illness throughout his short life and also developed dystonia – a muscle disorder.
Following Max’s death, Jo decided to erect a memorial at his graveside to commemorate her little boy’s life. After saving up money from her job at a local bar, the proud parent had enough funds to afford a fitting tribute. Poignantly, the memorial would be ready just in time for what would have been Max’s seventh birthday.
So in 2015 the grief-stricken mom commissioned a special headstone for her little boy’s plot. The memorial featured a teddy bear holding a star on which a heart-breaking personalized poem was engraved. The stone was meant to act as a beautiful eternal monument for her much-loved child.
Speaking about the decision to erect the heartfelt monument, Jo told the Daily Mail, “It would have been Max’s seventh birthday on the Sunday, and this was like a birthday present to him from me. 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.”
However, the monument proved to be far from eternal. Jo was shocked to receive a phone call from the stonemason who had crafted the tribute to her son, just a few days after the headstone was erected – and his news was shocking. The craftsman told Jo that he had been ordered to take down the precious monument from Max’s burial place.
The stonemason proceeded to inform the appalled mother that the removal of the headstone had been ordered by the owners of the graveyard, Malvern Town Council. Stunned, Jo could not believe that officials had not contacted her directly to inform her of the council’s decision before the tribute was removed.
Speaking about her feelings following the removal, Jo described her distress and anger at the decision of the council. “We have been through so much as a family. I could understand if the grave was uncared for or unsightly, but it isn’t,” she told the Daily Mail.
Shockingly, the reason given by the council for its action was a single complaint from another family, who also had a plot at the cemetery. It is thought that the grievance may have partially originated from the fact that the design was different to other headstones in that part of the grounds.
And in a twist to the tale, council chiefs added that they would not have given permission for the headstone to be erected at all if they had known about the design of the memorial in advance. Indeed, the regulatory body claimed that correct application procedures were not followed before the headstone went up.
Another issue appears to have stemmed from the fact that Jo buried the youngster in the adult section of the cemetery. The 42-year-old mother chose the plot so that her child’s final resting place would be close to those of his relatives. Officials claimed that the star-shaped tribute would have been permitted if the grave had been situated in the children’s section. Authorities stated that, unfortunately, the headstone was not in keeping with the style of the others that surrounded it.
Jo believes that the council’s heartless decision has prevented her from having a place to properly pay her respects to Max. “It’s a horrible situation. We just want to have somewhere to grieve,” she told the Daily Mail.
Despite Jo’s distress in the wake of the decision, Malvern Town Council stood by their decision to take down the headstone. A statement from the council 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.”
Morevoer, officials insist that the removal did not come as a result of the objection over the specific shape of the headstone but rather the process of erecting the tribute. A spokesperson told the Daily Mail, “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. 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.”
However, Jo decided that she was not about to let the decision prevent her from having the headstone that she wanted for her little boy. Speaking in the wake of the news, she told the Daily Mail, “The headstone meant a lot to me and the family, but now we are fighting to have it put back.”
The family said that they planned to work with council officials and the creator of the original headstone to find a solution to the dilemma. They were hopeful that there would be a way in which they could alter the piece so that it wouldn’t stand out from other graves.
In a bid to push the council to U-turn on its decision, Jo set up an online petition. While she may not have expected the protest to make a difference, it swiftly gathered support from across the U.K. and around the world. More than 1,000 signatures quickly rolled in and many more would soon follow.
Speaking about the amazing response that the campaign received, she told her local paper The Worcester News, “The petition has gone national and I’m so shocked to see that. I am determined to get the headstone back on his grave. Hopefully when the council see how many people are backing the petition, and the bad publicity they are getting because of it, they may change their minds and let Max have it back.”
The defiant mom also praised the national support, saying she was touched by the response. “It’s so nice that, even though he’s not here anymore, Max is still touching people’s lives and inspiring them. I will not stop fighting this for him. I won’t give up until the headstone is back,” she added.
To date Jo’s petition has gathered almost 57,000 signatures and the family hopes to reach a target of 75,000 names in a bid to have the little boy’s headstone permanently reinstated. Council officials have yet to release a statement regarding the future of the tribute, but if you’d like to support Jo’s cause then you can sign the petition too.