A family is sifting through strange emotions after discovering that a Leesburg Road cemetery buried a woman in the wrong plot.
Officials at Greenlawn Memorial Park discovered Wednesday that they had buried Helen Carlton one burial plot over from the one intended for her remains. Carlton, of Gaston, died just over a year ago and was meant to be buried in a plot next to her late husband at the cemetery.
But gravediggers Wednesday morning found her casket two spots away while digging a grave for another family.
Carlton’s son, Chris Carlton, said he was shocked to find out that he and his family had been visiting the wrong grave since his mother died May 9, 2011.
“We’ve been putting flowers on an empty grave all this time,” he said.
The cemetery discovered that Carlton’s remains were in the grave they were excavating by digging up the one for which she was intended. Once cemetery officials realized Carlton’s grave was empty, they contacted the family, said Greenlawn general manager Tammy Chandler. Carlton’s remains cannot be exhumed until all of her children agree to the move, Chandler said.
The family that was to use the other grave has selected another plot, Chandler said.
Chandler said that the burial was a mistake and one that doesn’t happen often. “It was a human error, and one we admitted to right away,” Chandler said.
Chris Carlton said finding out that his mother was in the wrong grave was upsetting. He said that when his mother died, Greenlawn workers confirmed the burial spot twice and even put out markers where she was to be buried.
He said he is upset that her empty grave was dug up without their consent; officials didn’t know if it was empty when they began digging.
“It’s insane,” he said. “I have to go tell my family that our mother was in the wrong grave.”
Chandler said the funeral home understands Chris Carlton’s anger and regrets their error. “We understand that it can be stressful to go through something like this,” she said. “We’re trying to make this an easy a process as possible and our heart goes out to them.”