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Strangers swap cemeteries to remember loved ones

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

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media captionCovid: Strangers swap cemeteries to pay tribute to their loved ones

Jason Bassett undertook a journey this week to tend a grave in Moffat cemetery.

It was for a woman he had not heard of until a few days ago.

At the same time, Christine Hastie from Solihull has been spending time at a memorial to Mr Bassett's father - a man she never met.

It is all the result of an appeal made on Facebook in the hope of assistance due to the inevitable difficulties caused by coronavirus restrictions.

It started when Mr Bassett - a funeral director in Dumfries - realised his family was unlikely to be able to make the journey to his dad John's ashes memorial plot at Robin Hood Cemetery in Solihull this year.

image copyrightChristine Hastie
image captionChristine Hastie responded to Mr Bassett's appeal for help

"I moved away from Birmingham when I was 13 but my dad still stayed in Birmingham," he explained.

"We always made the trip to see my dad at Christmas and, when he passed away, we just continued doing it but putting a holly wreath at his memorial in the cemetery.

"Obviously this year we are not able to go down and I had just accepted, well I won't go down."

However, he decided to post on a local Facebook group in Solihull to see if anyone else might be willing to help him.

image copyrightJason Bassett
image captionMr Bassett feared his family could not get to Solihull this year due to travel restrictions

"I was just inundated with people with messages," he said.

"I don't know how many people have been in contact since then to arrange things."

One woman - Sarah Hall - agreed to lay a wreath and then Ms Hastie got in contact to say she had a predicament much like his own.

"A lady messaged me to say she was in a similar situation but her mum was in Scotland," he said.

"I thought, I will ask where in Scotland because Scotland is big and I couldn't believe it when she said Moffat.

"It is only a 40-minute car journey for myself so I offered to do the same for her."


Mr Bassett's father died seven years ago and he said it would mean a lot to his family for someone to visit his memorial.

"I think when someone passes away that's it so I don't get much from visiting people's graves - it is mainly for my brothers and sisters," he said.

"I know it would mean a lot more to them - but that doesn't mean it doesn't mean anything to me."

Ms Hastie's mother, Catherine Rowley, died two years ago and her birthday was on Christmas Day so she likes to try to visit over the festive season.

image copyrightJohn Lord
image captionMr Bassett has offered to tend Ms Hastie's mother's grave in Moffat

When she saw Mr Bassett's post on Facebook it struck a chord.

"I understood how he felt because my mum is buried in Moffat cemetery and I get upset because I feel she is a bit neglected because we can't go and visit easily," she said.

"Jason offered to go and visit and tidy up the grave for me and I am reciprocating for his dad.

"Jason had quite a good response, we are quite a nice community. It was nice that so many people cared. "

image copyrightJason Bassett
image captionJason Bassett's father John died seven years ago

Ms Hastie said her mother was born in Hamilton but loved Moffat so much she wanted to go "home" when she died.

"I tried to explain it to Jason, I actually feel a bit of relief that somebody is going to just tend her grave so she is not alone," she said.

"I know that sounds really odd but it is nice to have visitors at a grave. Somebody is remembering you."

Mr Bassett now hopes their story might encourage others to offer to visit graves that families cannot get to this year.

"This Christmas will be different, but it doesn't have to be any less special," he said.

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