Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Help Me Howard: Headstone
A grave situation for one South Florida mother tonight. More than two years since her son's death, there still is no headstone marking his grave site. Unable to wait any longer, she turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser for answers.
WSVN -- Dora Cotton: "My son and I were inseparable. We were very close."
He was a son, a father and church leader, taken by kidney disease at the age of 40.
Dora Cotton: "My son died two years ago. Bishop Larry Eugene Mincey: loving, affectionate young man."
His mother Dora Cotton wanted us to show this final picture of Larry, the last time she saw him before she faced every parent's worst fear, burying their child.
Dora Cotton: "Very difficult."
Difficult to overcome the loss and difficult to even find Larry's grave site, which, two years later, still does not have a headstone.
Dora Cotton: "It just breaks my heart. His children came out here, and they called me screaming and crying because they couldn't find their father."
Dora says she paid for the headstone, but, instead, all he has is a plastic sign marking the grave. Not the kind of dignified memorial Dora says her son deserves.
Dora Cotton: "People tell you that it gets easier every day, but when you have no closure, it doesn't. It gets harder every day."
Dora says she has tried everything to complete Larry's grave site, but, instead of closure, she just continues to get complications.
Dora Cotton: "Once they told me that it came, and the writing on it was not suitable. Another time they said that the writing was written in a different language."
Dora's language is more clear, she says she paid for the stone, Larry deserves the stone and his family just wants it put in place.
Dora Cotton: "It's just mind boggling. I've seen other people buried in less time than that. They have their headstone and everything."
Dora could blame different people but doesn't. Instead, she points the finger at herself.
Dora Cotton: "I feel like I'm mistreating him, and, when he was alive, I took very good care of him.
Some religions require a marker be put up within a certain time frame, Larry's doesn't, and the contract doesn't have a deadline. So how long does Dora legally have to wait to bring her family peace?
Howard Finkelstein: "When a contract does not have a time frame, the court will impose a reasonable time period. In other words, what is standard in the industry. Two years is not reasonable. Dora could either sue or file a complaint with the state."
When we spoke to the cemetery, they told us there was confusion with the paperwork, that Dora bought a plot next to her son and the headstone was listed on her paperwork for when she passes away. That cemetery disagrees with Dora, and says Larry's headstone had not been paid for yet.
When a family friend heard that, he agreed to pay for Larry's headstone. The cemetery told us they would quickly get the headstone ordered and installed.
Funerals are terribly tough times for a family, and Howard says this is a warning for everyone.
Howard Finkelstein: "A contract is complicated when it involves a simple purchase. When it involves burying a loved one, the grief makes it unbearable and mistakes can happen. In order to make it easier for your family, get your funeral arrangements done ahead of time, even if you are young. Larry is proof you never know when your time will come.
The headstone for Larry has now been ordered and should be at his grave in about a month. A short time but even that is too long for his grieving mother.
Dora Cotton: "He was just a good, all-around person. I would like his headstone put on as soon as possible, like right now, yes."
Patrick Fraser: "Funerals are a tough time for a family. If you feel you were mistreated by a cemetery or funeral home, you can file a complaint with the state at the number below."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Division of Funeral & Cemetery Services