She just wanted to make a special memorial for her son in order to honor him as well as help her work through her grief.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on September 26, 2019. It has since been updated.
Losing someone you love is devastating. It can open up a void of pain, knowing that you're never going to be able to hold them or talk to them. And when you lose your child, the pain somehow doubles.
That is what happened to Jo Corbett-Weeks. She was supposed to be able to love, cuddle and fuss over her four-year-old son, Max Corbett-Gardener, for a long time and watch him grow into a beautiful person. But instead, she had to watch his life end at four and do something extremely heartbreaking — attend his funeral.
Years have passed, with her trying to cope with his loss and a few years ago, she mentioned to BBC that it had taken her three years to prepare herself to get a headstone where Max rests. "It would have been his seventh birthday on Sunday, and this was like a birthday present to him from me," she said. "I chose a star-shaped stone because I wanted something suitable for Max - something personal. This stone is just so perfect for my poor little chap."
The headstone was designed in such a way that it was meant to celebrate Max's life, no matter how short it had been. The 42-year-old felt like it was the right thing to for the son she had to watch pass on, after suffering severe epilepsy and its extreme effects.
In order to make her dream a reality and create a special memorial for him, Jo saved up £3,000 for a beautiful headstone. It was in the shape of a teddy bear holding a star and a warm message dedicated to him, reported the Daily Mail.
It was a great comfort for her, to be able to celebrate her son's life and mark his 7th birthday in a special way. However, that comfort was snatched away from her in the manner of days. Three days after it was placed over Max's grave in the Great Malvern Cemetery, Worcestershire, it was taken away. All it took was one family to complain before the headstone was removed without the distraught mother's permission.
"I was totally unaware this was going on. The council did not contact me and it was the stonemason who told me he'd been ordered to remove it," she said. All Jo had left of her son was that headstone and it was her way of getting through her grief. But even that was gone because someone from another family felt that it was not "in keeping" with the rest of the cemetery.
"I feel upset, distressed and angry. We have been through so much as a family. I could understand if the grave was uncared for or unsightly, but it isn't," Jo said. "The headstone meant a lot to me and the family but now we are fighting to have it put back. It's a horrible situation. We just want to have somewhere to grieve."
Max was put to rest in the adult section of the cemetery because Jo wished for him to be close to other family members. However, the Malvern Town Council who runs the cemetery claimed that they would have kept the headstone as is if it was erected in the children's section.
"We have conformity of shapes in our lawn cemetery," said a spokesman for the council. "We were contacted by people who objected to the shape. The longer it stayed up, the harder the process would have been. It was a very difficult decision to remove it but one we had to make straight away."
The council felt that removing the headstone was the only way they could keep the regulations of the cemetery intact. "It wasn't necessarily an objection to the shape but why we appeared to be applying one rule to one family and other rules to another," the spokesman went on to say. "The stonemason in this situation did not have permission to put the stone up - and the stone is not in keeping with the graves in that area. By not following the correct process he has caused considerable distress to both families."
A petition was set up on Change to have Max's sweet memorial reinstated. It garnered 60,185 supporters. However, just as this came up as a ray of hope, Jo was again hit with another tragedy — the loss of her oldest daughter, Zoe shortly after Max. At the time of her passing in 2016, Zoe was just a young 17, according to Birmingham Live.
Now, Jo lives on for her second son, TJ. In 2018, Jo posted a picture of the two graves of her children saying, "Two new white crosses for my two beautiful children... Miss them so much xxxxxxxxxxxx"
Though Jo may not have been able to realize her goal of keeping the star-shaped memorial she first imagined, she and TJ decided to keep memorial stones for both her children, Zoe and Max.
She wrote on social media, "So today we have finally put Zoë memorial stone with her brothers... Something I have wanted and needed to do for some time.. But we have finally done it.. Has been an emotional time but proud of myself and TJ... They are always in my thoughts and always will be forever..... Love them dearly with all my heart ♥ xxxxx"