Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cradle to grave...and beyond

Human beings can be pretty terrible to each other.

A family in Pennsylvania lost their precious baby boy last August. The child had a rare liver disease, and died at the tender age of ten months. The family, overwhelmed with medical bills and unable to afford a burial plot, buried their son in their backyard--a perfectly legal option at the time. It's what's happened since then that is so shocking:
A Colebrookdale Township man who had his 10-month-old son buried at home said Wednesday that grief and financial troubles have prevented him from complying with township demands for a zoning waiver.

"I chose to do this version of home burial because he's very young," James A. Dodson explained. "I can't even describe the sadness. We simply couldn't afford to go buy a plot."

Dodson was reacting to an article in Wednesday's Reading Eagle about the Colebrookdale commissioners' decision to cite him due to delays in pursuing a zoning waiver.

The commissioners have said they are not against the private burial but that certain conditions must be met because the residential property is not zoned as a cemetery.

Dodson said he and his wife, Chantal, are "barely making ends meet" and can't afford the zoning application fee, which he said is $650.

He said the couple's financial problems are caused by medical bills exceeding $30,000 for their son, Jesse Alexander Dodson, who was diagnosed with a liver condition at birth. The child died in August, and Dodson said the family didn't have enough money to bury him in a cemetery.

Township officials have known about the burial for months, and in November the board enacted an ordinance making it unlawful to bury a deceased person anywhere in Colebrookdale other than a cemetery.

Although the Dodson burial preceded the ordinance, the township still wants zoning conditions met, including provisions to maintain and mark the burial site. The Dodsons also would need an access easement to visit the site if the property is sold.
Read the rest here.

So, after the family buried their son, the township commissioners passed a law making home burials illegal (something that would have shocked our liberty-loving founders, I'm sure, since home burials have a long and honorable history). Then, legally unable to exert their will on the family whose child had already been buried in this way, they have proceeded to insist on a zoning waver and money the family doesn't have to spare, adding injury to the terrible grief the family is already suffering.

We sometimes say jokingly that our nanny state government is involved in its citizens' lives "from the cradle to the grave." We may have to add, "...and beyond" to that phrase, since even the grave of this tiny child isn't left undisturbed by the greedy and pinching hand of government authority.

There is no reason at all for the township to interfere with this family, but in our present reality, government interferes for interference's sake, and needs no other reason for its pettifogging smallness and blind trampling over the kinds of liberties our ancestors took for granted.


Carrie said...

You put it so well: government interfering for interference's sake. That hit the nail right on the head!

What a terrible thing. Why can't they just leave a grieving family in peace?! There is literally NO reason for the government to step in for this situation - except money? But that would cause an uproar, surely. So what is it? Making "rules" just because they can? Either way they sound like a bunch of barbarians who just want to see a poor family squirm.

bathilda said...

this is horrible, and the city should have been gracious enough to waive the fee for this family. However, why on earth should it be legal to bury human remains in the backyard? YUCK! If my town has laws that prevent my property from stinking like a corpse because my neighbors buried grandma next to the fenceline--I'm glad of it!! That's not a nanny state. If you have to be told that the proper place for a dead body is in a cemetery, then you need a nanny. there have to be charitble services to help with this sort of thing. seriously. I think that our founders are dizzy from turning in their graves every time their names get invoked for laws that are passed to cure people of the stupid. Our ancestors had the liberty to bury things in their yards because they had the liberty to live in BFE... So people should be able to shoot guns and hunt anywhere they please? there are laws that say they shouldn't. the founding fathers didn't envision a free-for-all anarchy where everyone is packing heat and burying bodies in the backyard.

Red Cardigan said...

Ironically, Bathtilda, our founding fathers didn't have to envision everyone packing heat and burying bodies in the backyard--because when this nation was founded virtually everyone DID pack heat and bury bodies in the back yard! Sure, in the towns and villages there were church cemeteries, but out on the prairie? And even in towns infants, both the stillborn and those who died very young, were often buried in a family plot on the family property (which was a little bigger than our suburban backyard these days).

John E. said...

Maybe I'm just a pragmatic type, but if it were me, I would have stopped paying the hospital bills and used the money to get my home burial site up to the Township requirements.

I also noticed that it is mentioned in the story that the Dodson's were represented by an attorney in their dispute with the Township.

It doesn't take too much time to incur $650 worth of lawyer fees. Is the lawyer working for free?

John E. said...

...the founding fathers didn't envision a free-for-all anarchy where everyone is packing heat and burying bodies in the backyard.

bathilda, you ought to come out to East Texas sometime - we've got all that and backyard goats!

Dymphna said...

Several of my relatives are buried in their family's back yards. Most of the Founding Fathers are buried on their estates. My only concern in this case is whether the father buried his son deep enough.

Bathilda said...

well, I lived in New Mexico for a few years where every man with a freudian complex has a peacemaker on his hip. ridiculous. the founding fathers were gifted intellectuals, and they would puke to see how we have bastardized the spirit of many tenets of the constitution. East Texas is likely a hotbed for such corrupted views.

Yes, many people were buried in their back yards.....key areas of interest here....this was a long time ago. I know some of you orthodox have trouble with the fact that times change, so read this slowly....laws and/or regulations about burying people in your yards are there for a good reason. Some laws actually HELP you enjoy your freedoms... I know that seems like an oxymoron, but how about noise ordinances? Litter laws, etc.

John E. said...

East Texas is likely a hotbed for such corrupted views.

Maybe so, but we like it...

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I suspect that this town council was packed with stereotypical small town CONSERVATIVE politicos, who are just as capable of nanny-state nonsense as liberals. Don't forget the Puritans were some of the nosiest of all.

It reminds me of the time when county employees got tired of the dingy brown color scheme in the court house, so on their own time and their own dime they bought some lighter pastel colored paints and came in on the week-end to brighten the place up. The county board agreed to withhold criminal prosecution if they all came in and repainted everything the standard shades of brown again.

The family should simply tell the board:

a) They are not running a cemetery, they merely buried a family member,

b) If they ever sell the property, they will negotiate the easement with the buyer.

I would also note that IF a shallow burial creates a public health hazard, then a civil suit for public nuisance is of course an option.

Anonymous said...

My bro and I have done now 3 beloved Golden Retriever burials over the last thirty years on our property. No problems whatsoever!

The case at hand in PA is indeed an example of the nanny state gotten completely out-of-control. And I say this, indeed, as a left-of-center liberal.