Ohio Father Asked To Remove Photos Of His Son At Cemetery

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ohio father cemetery photo lawsuitIn Kent, Ohio, there’s a little dispute going on between Ohio father Fred Molai, the City Board of Kent, and Standing Rock Cemetery about what is and what isn’t “too much” when it comes to honoring a dead loved one, and the whole thing has culminated in a lawsuit.  Compounding the fragility of this case is the fact that the grave site in question belongs to Molai’s son, Adam. Losing any loved one is heartbreaking, but the idea of losing a child so young-Adam was just 23 when he died-is beyond devastating. It’s for that reason that it’s difficult for me to not side with the father in this situation. So what’s causing all of the debate? This gravesite:


You can see from the picture that the actual tombstone is in the center; it isn’t particularly obtrusive and features a picture of Adam, a Navy veteran who died in an rafting accident in 2011. Molai soon added the silk flower displays, the American flags, and the poster-sized photos of his son to create what you see in the picture; a “shrine” that is four feet deep and sixteen feet wide.The complaints started rolling in when Molai added the photos, which are nailed to 8-foot-high posts, which caused some people to complain that the grave site is too obtrusive.

I disagree. First, let me offer the disclaimer that I dislike cemeteries. By the time I graduated high school I had been to enough funerals for both adults and children alike that I developed a serious distaste for funerals and grave sites as a whole. Personally, I don’t want to be buried, and I don’t want the people I love to feel tethered to a plot of land with my body in it. I want them to move on and be happy. But that’s me.

No one wants to think about how they would bury a child, including me, and as a result, it isn’t like there’s a playbook or set of rules entitled “How To Bury And Mourn Your Child So That It’s Convenient For Everyone Else”. I don’t think that I would set up a shrine like Molai, but that’s an extremely easy conclusion to come to while I have the luxury of a living child. Fred Molai does not have that luxury, and he has visited his son’s grave for 971 consecutive days. Adam has been dead for 1045 days. By my estimation, Molai is probably there more than most people, this is how he has chosen to mourn his son, and I absolutely believe he is entitled to do it in any way that he pleases.

Some of the contention seems to stem from whether or not the set up impedes the visibility to the rest of the grave sites, and whether or not it affects others who come to the cemetery. As to the latter, I can see this point of view, but only in theory. In practice, when you go to a cemetery, it isn’t as if you’re there to sight see. Any time I’ve been to a grave, it has been to lay flowers or attend a memorial service. It’s solemn, and I’ve never given any thought to the other sites that are surrounding the one I’m there to see. To the former point, Molai’s site isn’t even the largest one at Standing Rock, as he himself is quick to point out.

“There is no height limit in Standing Rock, and I don’t believe that I violated any rules…I don’t believe that I’ve done enough. There is no limit what you should do for your child. And the love that I got for Adam, it’s so deep. And I really don’t believe I’ve done enough for him.”

So he’s not going to back down, and in fact has sued to keep the photos up. I say good for him. The entire case is going before a state board, who should have a decision by early May. I hope that Fred Molai gets to keep the tribute that he has made for his son up, but ultimately it won’t be up to him. Here’s hoping that the state board and all of the parties involved can handle this with the sensitivity it deserves.

(Image:Orhan Cam/Shutterstock)