MARION — Sometimes it’s too painful to visit a family member’s gravesite. Deborah Thompson knows exactly how that feels, which is why she offers her services to help people know a loved one’s gravesite is in good hands.
Thompson said the idea for Loving Touch Grave Site Care came after she struggled to visit the grave of her father, who passed away in 2016.
“You don’t really know what it feels like until it happens to you,” Thompson said. “His gravesite isn’t too far from where I live, but it was just too hard. I just couldn’t go visit it.”
When she finally found the strength to visit, she decided to plant flowers and plants around the headstone to honor him. “My dad always kept his yard nice and did it all himself. He liked planting flowers and all of that,” Thompson said.
But when she again didn’t visit the cemetery for a while, she noticed on her delayed return that the plants and flowers had wilted away.
“They have people that mow and that sort of thing, but they don’t have the time to give each stone the attention that it really needs,” she said. Thus, Thompson decided to re-visit her father’s grave on a regular basis to clean his gravesite and tend to the garden bed.
“One day, as I was sitting there, I looked around, and I thought, ‘I wonder if other people have these struggles, same that I had,’” she said. Thompson said she took a bunch of photos and advertised her services on social media – she immediately started getting phone calls.
The Marion native says most of her clients are people who have moved far away but want to make sure their loved one’s graves are still being looked after. She had clients who wanted gravestones cleaned once and others who wanted regular monthly check-ins to tend to plants and garden beds.
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“I go and water, weed whack and mow and make sure it kind of looks nice, so whenever people stop into visit, it’s pretty,” Thompson said. “I’m kind of sort of calling it my cemetery beautification project.”
A special cleaner for gravestones
Thompson says she uses a special cleaner on the gravestones after months of researching the proper way to clean a mossy or dirty headstone. “I spray the cleaner on and then I come back about a week later and try to get the rest of it off,” she said. “Most of the time, I can get all of it off, but sometimes it’s depending on how long the moss and what type it is that’s growing.” She uses special brushes and tools as well.
Thompson said, unfortunately, some of the moss can get into the stone which can become impossible to clean without risking damage. But, she says graves usually keep clean for about a year until they will need to be cleaned again.
Thompson said she also finds interesting objects on and around the gravestone such as shells, pebbles, coins, military medals or other objects.
“I take a photo with my phone, then I take everything out carefully. And then I put it back exactly where everything was,” Thompson said. She once found a golf ball that she later found out a friend of the deceased had buried a few years back when they visited the grave.
Thompson said that what she finds the most interesting is the stories that she hears from clients and how they say she makes them feel more comfortable. One woman who lost a baby, similar to Thompson, couldn’t visit the grave. She asked Thompson to plant flowers and check in on the grave weekly.
“When someone calls and asks me to help them, I really feel honored that they’ve asked me to come and unify their family’s final resting place,” she said. “Everyone grieves in different ways. If someone wants some help, at the cemetery site, then they can give me a call.”
Thompson thinks her father would be proud of what she’s already accomplished. “I grew up doing lots of gardening and yard work with him. And it was just part of our day,” Thompson said. “He taught me a lot about gardening and kind of gave me my love of for outdoors.”
She travels all over the SouthCoast from Wareham to Westport. “If anyone calls and needs my services, I’m willing to certainly discuss anything with anyone because I just like to help people.”
Thompson has a long history of helping people. She served as an EMT after high school, and has spent the last 30 years running a preschool out of her home.
During the COVID-19 pandemic she was forced to shut down her school. “I thought, ‘Oh, what am I going to do?’ And then I found myself at the cemetery,” she said. “I’m kind of sort of swapping hats for a little while, we’ll see where this takes me.
“I just like to help people. And I like to make things beautiful and give people inspiration.”
Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected]. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.