Without improvements, woman will move twin sister's grave from Shadow Lawn Cemetery

Published: Jul. 2, 2016 at 12:45 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2016 at 2:08 AM CDT
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Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - On a hot Friday afternoon, Ja'Mesha McClellan searched for her sister's gravestone at Shadow Lawn Memorial Gardens and Cemetery.

Holding up old photos of the grave maker, she guided her search by looking for nearby prominent gravestones and shrubbery.

Finally, she found it and dropped to her knees to push back weeds that had overtaken the small stone etched her with her sister's name, Car'Nesha.

"I always talk about my sister because I wish I could have met her. I write books about her. I think about her daily. That was my imaginary friend growing up.  I used to talk to her and everything," McClellan said.  More than 23 years ago, her sister died at just a month old.

McClellan has visited Car'Nesha's gravesite all her life.  Lately, she's considered having the grave moved to another cemetery.

"I hate to see the cemetery like this," said McClellan.  "The grass is high. They have holes in the grass. You're afraid that you're going to step in something.  Some of the tomb stones are removed."

McClellan believes her sister and others buried at Shadow Lawn deserve better.

"This should be a big issue in our community," she said.

John Lanier, treasurer of the non-profit managing the cemetery's maintenance and care, said other people have paid to move gravesites from Shadow Lawn in the past.

Lanier says the association struggles to maintain all 40 acres of land on less than ten thousand dollars a year.  That money comes from a few donations and interest earned on a state-mandated cemetery investment account.

McClellan says she would consider donating money to improve Shadow Lawn, instead of moving the grave, if she had assurance that the donation would be spent on improvements.

According to Lanier, 100 percent of donations go to administrative costs and maintenance. No staff is paid for their work in maintaining the cemetery.

The association is planning to submit a request for financial assistance to the Birmingham City Council.

"Just know that I wished and prayed that they can do much better for you all," McClellan whispered into her sister's gravestone. "I really do hate this. May you rest in peace."

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