Grave ban on kisses

Grieving: Janet Corless and daughter Sophie Howsley at the graveside. Below, the banned headstone.
Grieving: Janet Corless and daughter Sophie Howsley at the graveside. Below, the banned headstone.
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A moving memorial to a much-loved dad has been banned from a churchyard – because it was sealed with a kiss.

Mike Howsley’s grieving family have been ordered to remove the expensive headstone from his grave after a parish priest ruled the two Xs on the inscription was “inappropriate.”

Mike’s distraught partner Janet Corless said: “The priest took exception to two little kisses and the phrase ‘sleep tight Dad.’

“I can’t believe it. It’s so callous and I’m absolutely heartbroken.”

Warehouseman Mike died in January aged just 49. His family spent more than £2,000 on a headstone for his grave at St Mary’s Brownedge Church in Bamber Bridge.

The monumental masons who supplied it insist the inscription was authorised by the church before it was erected.

But now Janet, 52, and 19-year-old daughter Sophie have had to remove the stone, even though they claim others in the same churchyard contain similar phrases and kisses.

“Mike died suddenly right in front of Sophie and me,” said a tearful Janet, of Walton-le-Dale. “It’s only seven months since it happened and it is still very raw.

“The headstone we chose was beautiful and we were delighted with it when it was put on the grave. But when they told us the inscription was inappropriate and would have to go it was a complete bombshell.

“I had a meeting with the priest and pleaded with him to allow it. But he seemed totally unsympathetic. He said the kisses weren’t acceptable on the headstone and neither was the phrase on the base. I couldn’t believe it and I just stormed out. I was hysterical.

“Mike meant the world to us and it’s hard enough coping with our loss without having something like this making it worse. Why can’t they show some compassion?”

Michelle Howe, company director at Cocker Memorials in Preston, insisted she had verbal approval from the parish priest before the stone was erected.

“I don’t have anything in writing,” she said. “Sometimes we get written confirmation and sometimes it’s done with a phone call. This was over the phone.

“We wouldn’t have gone ahead and made the headstone if we didn’t have approval. But it now looks like we will have to make an entirely new one because covering up the letters won’t look right.

“The priest said we could have ‘sleep tight Dad,’ but on a separate piece of stone - not on the headstone. So, really, it’s just down to those two little kisses.

“I’ve been round the churchyard and there are other headstones with kisses on. It seems ridiculous.”

Fr George at St Mary’s commented: “We extend our deepest sympathies to Mrs Corless at this difficult time and will be working closely with the stonemason to make sure her partner’s headstone is erected correctly as soon as possible.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Salford, which includes Bamber Bridge, was unavailable for comment.