Michaels: Petty policy making targets mourning woman

Imagine the benches lining the sunny waterfront pathway in Peachland, overflowing with flowers in remembrance of the dead and departed.

“Cemetery Way” is a very macabre idea.

Imagine the benches lining the sunny waterfront pathway in Peachland, overflowing with flowers in remembrance of the dead and departed.

Maybe mourners dressed head-to-toe in black would be prompted to wander about, sobbing loudly for their loves lost and leaving a pile of hankies in their wake, which beleaguered municipal workers would have to clean up.

Far too morose an idea to dwell on, but such is my current plight due to comments that came out of Peachland Council this week.

While rejecting a proposal that would allow residents to buy self-watering planters or sconces for the benches that line the promenade, the stink factor of public grieving was addressed in a somewhat comical, but mostly callous way.

“If I wanted a flower sconce, I would attach it to [my mother’s] gravestone,” Coun. Keith Thom was quoted saying in the Peachland View, around the time he dropped the joke that Centennial Way may have to be renamed Cemetery Way if they were to loosen the rules around bench maintenance.

I enjoy a politician with a flare for the dramatic, but  trouble with Thom’s statement is that it rings false.

They’re already memorial benches. My son and I walk the aforementioned path regularly, and he asks to be read what’s on the plaques that the municipality installs for area residents.

There are a number of “in loving memories” among the 80 or so benches. Some have maudlin sentiments. Some are sweet. So costly homages to those who have died is clearly the norm and the proliferation of public memorials isn’t a legitimate a concern.

Nor should there be any concerns that there will be a run on town flowers with mourners affixing bouquets to area benches if allowances for those who wanted to leave blooms were implemented.

For five years there’s been one bench with flowers and no others. Why? My guess is that it’s just not what everyone wants to do.

But it is just what one grieving mother needs.

All of this hyperbolic rhetoric about creating an unsightly stretch for public grieving is because Charrie Fichter, mother of slain teen Ashlee Hyatt, has been putting flowers on the bench that bears her daughter’s name ever since she was killed on a Peachland street.

Charrie, Ashlee’s other family members and friends been sitting at the bench, affixing flowers to its corners and remembering the best about a girl whose life was cut short too soon, unknowingly in opposition of a bench bylaw to the contrary.

Around six months ago the flowers started to get removed. Charrie then learned about the policy, and tried to come up with a solution — the sconces.

The idea was shot down earlier this week, as concerns for Cemetery Way were raised and now she has a couple of weeks to remove all traces of what she’s been doing.

Speaking with her, it’s clear she’s hurt about this latest turn of events. But that’s nothing compared to the hurt she’s felt through  the  years since her daughter was killed.

Hurt that we should all hope we will never feel. One would hope that the town’s great and good could empathize with her loss, maybe create a little wiggle room in their policy.

Instead she’s been asked to remove her flowers and offered the “choice” from one city staffer to move her grieving place elsewhere.

All in all it brings one word to mind — “petty.”

So tread lightly “Peachland’s Petty Way.”  And definitely don’t bring flowers.

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