Fluctuating weather wreaks havoc on headstones at Lower Sackville cemetery
Roughly 250 headstones have overturned at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Lower Sackville, N.S., and it seems Mother Nature is to blame.
“With the weather that we've had this winter, we get so much rain, and then the rain freezes, and we get frost, and as you know, when water freezes, it expands,” said Paul MacDonald, Halifax Catholic Cemeteries superintendent.
Macdonald says when water collects under the base of a headstone it freezes, causing the stone to move.
During this time of year, the cycle is continuous. The ground freezes, then thaws. The more it happens, the worse it gets, and eventually, the headstone falls off its base.
“Right at the present time there's nothing we can do to fix it,” MacDonald said.
He is advising parishioners not to try and fix their loved one's gravesite, saying it will be taken care of in the spring once there's no more chance of frost.
“This problem usually only happens in older parts of the cemetery,” MacDonald said. “Newer sections have poured foundations that run the whole length of the row with a drainage system underneath, so there's very little movement.”
If a parishioner isn’t certain whether a loved one's headstone has been damaged, MacDonald says it's best to stop by the cemetery and check.
While he assures all of the headstones will be repaired, it's hard to keep track of every single name.
“Some people, they'll come out and they'll look and they'll think that we've been vandalized, and I just want to reassure everyone this is not vandalism, except for Mother Nature,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald and his crew are hoping the number of damaged headstones will not increase, but with a couple more months of winter to go, he admits it's a possibility.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Suzette Belliveau.