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Somerset mother's grief at vicar's ban on artificial flowers on baby's grave

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: January 10, 2011

Rebecca Eales' grandfather and grandmother, Ivor and Barbara Mills

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​Grieving relatives have contemplated exhuming their dead baby girl – after a vicar banned them from laying artificial flowers at her grave. 

When Rebecca Eales died at only three weeks old, her devastated family laid her to rest at St James’ Church in Quedgeley, Gloucester. 

But they started to notice that silk flowers placed around her headstone were being taken by the vicar, who said he only wants real flowers in his churchyard. 

The row has left the family “hurt beyond belief”, but the Rev Geoff Stickland is standing by those rules. Rebecca died due to a heart defect in 1988. 

The family said silk flowers have been removed from Rebecca’s grave many times since then. 

Her mum Elizabeth Mills, who grew up in Quedgeley but now lives in Somerset, said: “What this vicar has done to me has made me feel that I have not wanted to visit my daughters grave.  
“As any parent that has lost a child knows the feelings are unimaginable.”

Mrs Mills now has three grown-up children of her own, Kymberley 21, Charlotte 19, and Harvey 15.

Rebecca’s grandfather Ivor Mills, 80, who lives in Lydney, in the Forest of Dean, said: “We are so upset, because the baby had not long been interred when we first saw flowers go. 

“We let it lie at the time, but then more recently we saw silk flowers on graves over here at Lydney, Bream and Coleford and they look very nice, so why can’t we do it?”

He and his wife Barbara, 77, have put silk flowers down four or five times in recent years and they have vanished. 

He said he has spoken to Mr Stickland’s wife about the matter but he said she told him they only wanted natural flowers.

He said: “I asked her whether she meant that was the rule for poppies for Remembrance. “We were annoyed about it but what can you do?
“We looked in to having her exhumed and putting her in Lydney.  The undertaker said it would have to go through the Home Office and it could be a rather long process and quite expensive.” 

The family said they were put off exhuming the body because of the cost, but want the church to change its rules. 

Mr Stickland said the regulations are clearly marked and have been in place for many years.

He said: “One man’s meat is another man’s poison, as my dad used to say. Taste is something someone cannot legislate for.

“Many parishes enforce them, others don’t because of controversies like this.”
He added that he kept the silk flowers in a safe place, and the family were able to retrieve them if they wished. 

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    Molly Cule, UK  |  January 24 2011, 3:38PM

    I do wish these people would stop whingeing, the rules have been in place for years. Just get some real flowers and grow up. Some people just love to complain about anything.

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    Joe, Joe, Bristol heading to Glastonbury  |  January 11 2011, 12:45PM

    Not that I wished this story to become a tech-support issue, DJS is correct. The reply was written in Word, which must use different coding for an apostrophe. That aside, my opinion of this two-bit fake vicar still stands. He's completely missed the point of Christ's teachings.

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    DJS, Somerset  |  January 10 2011, 11:41PM

    OK, that example didn't work, but I'm sure that it is something related to that.

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    DJS, Somerset  |  January 10 2011, 11:39PM

    Hi. Michael, I believe the issue is to do with the way that the software controlling the website handles special characters. I would suspect that Joe pasted his comment from a word processor like Microsoft Word which automatically changes standard single quotes into special characters which supposedly look nicer. Although these comments fields do have some problems, especially lately with all the spamming. I think the thisis network could do with a bit of a refresh. Just to experiment with my theory: This is from direct typing: 'abc' This is from Microsoft Word: ¿abc¿ -- DJS

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    michael, south west  |  January 10 2011, 10:16PM

    what on earth is it with all these upside down question marks all over these forums ??? what two bit outfit do people buy their computers from around here that they are unable to tell windows what locale their keyboard is for ???

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    Joe, Bristol heading to Glastonbury  |  January 10 2011, 4:12PM

    Someone care to remind this practitioner of the teachings of Jesus, that Christ¿s message was one of compassion and understanding? Not snobbery and ham-fisted callousness! An artificial flower will smell a lot sweeter than where he¿s currently got his head shoved!