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There must be an answer to the Resthaven nightmare

How many times and in how many ways can the people of the Valley be let down by Resthaven Memorial Gardens. It seems to be an unending nightmare. Resthaven should be a beautiful, serene place where people can visit the final resting places of their loved ones and leave flowers and other adornments to honor their memory. It’s been the source of heartaches for far too long.

We’ve gone through a period of people having thought they had everything taken care of in advance with pre-need plans only to discover that someone they trusted had skipped town and the money was gone. Because of this, there’s no telling how many local  people had to pay twice for a funeral.

There have been periods with those who have family ties to Resthaven were hopeful that things had turned around and they were going to get the professional treatment they deserved only to be disappointed again. The cemetery has gone through bankruptcy with a new owner coming along to assure people they were going to be treated fairly only to go through more bankruptcy and more neglect of a cemetery that should be one of the most pastoral and serene settings anywhere.

Long-term neglect can be seen in the mausoleum that has major structural problems. It can be seen in the roads inside the cemetery that are in horrible condition. If it wasn’t for the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office cutting the grass on an as-needed basis, Resthaven might well be a kudzu field today.  We can be grateful to the work crews sent in by Sheriff Sid Lockhart or Resthaven might truly be a heart wrenching setting.

We thank the sheriff for taking this on, but it shouldn’t be something his department has to do. There should be a responsible owner that takes care of this. They should have the money to pay a lawn care service to do it. A responsible owner should make repairs that are desperately needed at the mausoleum. There should be access roads on the cemetery grounds that are decent to drive on.

A sign on the door at the Resthaven office doesn’t exactly build confidence that the state of Alabama has a handle on this. It reads: “This establishment is not authorized to offer for sale, to sell, or to collect payments for pre-need contracts for funeral or cemetery merchandise and services.”

It goes on to say that this is regulated by the Alabama Department of Insurance and that unauthorized pre-need sales need to be reported to them.

With this, the state is telling us that bad stuff has happened in the past inside this building and that you’re on your own to take care of it. As the Romans used to say, caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – because we can’t fix this for you.

Will we ever see light at the end of the tunnel? Do we have to trust the future to chance, to have blind faith that there’s some benevolent future owner that will take care of some immense problems and treat people right?

Resthaven has been a sad, ugly story for far too long. We are not living in a primitive era. This is the 21st century, and we’re privileged to live in one of the most advanced, prosperous countries the world has ever known.

We should be able to figure out this problem and do the right thing.