His right ankle is fused, both knees have been replaced, but somehow Art Webb manages to walk between the graves at Elk Falls Cemetery without tripping or stumbling over the mementos left by the living for loved ones no longer here.
It’s a walk the 68-year-old often takes, either alone or with his wife Diane. They come to remember their son Justin who died Sept. 4, 2011, following a nine-month long battle with brain cancer.
He was 20 years old.
For those who had the pleasure of knowing Justin, we consider the time spent together an honour; a sacred memory of a kind, young man who spread a lot of love during his time on Earth.
His death was devastating to so many, but his parents chose to mourn in a way that reflects their son’s spirit.
“It was awful for us, but it happens. That’s what we learned: Tragic things happen every day and people need our help,” Diane told me.
That was in April 2012, when Art and Diane took the extra money donated to support their son’s fight against cancer and used it to “pay it forward.” The money, more than $2,000, bought two delivery carts that were donated to the Campbell River Hospital maternity ward, and the couple continue to give both time and cash to local charitable causes.
They truly are inspirational, so it was more than a little troubling to see Art so downcast when stopped by the office last week. With trembling hands, he dropped a three-page hand-written letter on my desk.
“I’m kind of emotional about this,” he said. “This…this just isn’t right.”
What’s so upsetting to the Webb family, and likely even more good Campbell River families, is the city’s newest cruel push to “enforce the bylaw” and remove all mementos from the grave stones over the next nine months.
City officials “reason” the cemeteries are becoming too cluttered and pose a hazard for visitors and the contractors who do maintenance.
Somehow Art manages to shuffle through in all types of weather and he scoffs at the notion the work crews are somehow inconvenienced by mementos for the dead.
The Webbs run their own landscaping business and Art says it’s nothing unusual to pick up dog bones or kids’ toys when he’s mowing.
However, he’s also seen the grass cutters on ride-on mowers who blaze across the cemetery and then use gas blowers to clear up the cuttings and maybe, accidentally, blow over a memento or two.
Art sighs, “It’s not as if the city goes out of its way to enforce other bylaws. First its the SPCA and people’s pets and now it’s our loved ones.
“Why is the city striking out at the things that mean the most to us?”
I have to wonder too.