Christmas Decorating at the Cemetery

The star sits on top of Richard's Christmas tree.

by Joe Mudd on December 15, 2010

This past weekend Debbie and I went to the cemetery with Christmas trees.

Once again we took small, real trees. We plan to take them and plant them somewhere later. Hopefully we’ll retrieve them before they disappear this time.

Richard's 2010 Christmas tree.

Richard's 2010 Christmas tree.

Last year Debbie made strings of cranberries to put on the trees.

Richard liked cranberries. Not that Jello looking stuff you plop out of a can, but the real deal. He and Debbie would cook up real cranberries in our big cast iron skillet. When he was young he liked to help stir the sugary berry mix and watch the cranberries pop. I think he was the only member of the family that really cared much for them – though the real thing was much better than the canned version. We had cranberries every Christmas because Richard wanted them.

Debbie also thought the birds would like the fresh berries.

Well the birds didn’t pay much attention to them, and Richard didn’t reach out and pluck any of them off the tree either. So this year she decided it wasn’t worth the work. She bought some strings of red beads and put them on the trees. There are also some small balls and ribbons.

While we were there we met another set of grieving parents, the Longs. Their son Michael Todd Long is one of Richard’s neighbors now. He died at the age of 15. That was about 13 years ago. They were there to decorate their son’s headstone.

The Long's decorate the top of their son's stone.

The Long's decorate the top of their son's stone.

Like us they have parents buried close by and will join their son there some day. She told me she wasn’t in any hurry to die, but she wasn’t afraid of it either, because she knew she’d get to she her son again when it happens.


{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Glenda December 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm

On December 9, 2002 My son who was also named Richard (he was called Ricky) Shot himself. My pain is so strong sometimes but for the Grace of God I would be insane. He was a very kind and loving person, but the alcohol and drugs won. God Bless you in your grief. I also used to work for a state Law Enforcement and saw that happen so many times. Now I pray all those loved was have fould some comfort. I found mine in God, but everyone is different. I have been on the inter net for 3 days trying to find a small cemetery christmas to put on his grave but I can’t find anything and if I do I can’t afford it. God Bless you in the loss of your son. with sympathy, Glenda


Debbie Mudd December 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I am sorry about the death of your son, Ricky. We too rely on our faith in God and pray for our son as well as other families who have lost a child. I find myself still trying to “take care” of Richard in what I do for his grave. Usually trying to do something for him I know means something to him or something he would like.

I see many kinds of decorations at the cemetery during the christmas season, everything from little statues to decorated wreaths & trees, or little wind spinners with a tree or santa in the center, (I included one of those for Richard this year). I don’t spend a lot of money for these things, finding stuff on sale after christmas to use later, the little spinner I got from Walmart for a couple of dollars.

I do get some comfort decorating his grave for those occasions he enjoyed. I just don’t want him to be forgotten, he was my baby and I miss him everyday. And I know when I do these things I’m doing them for me, yet I think Richard knows and he appreciates what we do, remembering.

I am convinced he lets me know what he likes and doesn’t. For example; the strawberries we planted at the back of his stone are doing very well, but the roses we put on the sides just looked horrible and we took them out; then we put a shamrock plant in the front last year for St. Patrick’s day (Richard chose him as his patron saint). Anyway we removed them to put in some summer flowers yet it wasn’t long before we saw the shamrock return. It shouldn’t have, but it was there again this year and grew, not very big, but it grew. I am looking forward to this spring to see if it comes back again. But I did tell Richard I got his message and will get him another shamrock plant. Sometimes we take some of his favorite candy and leave it. Just the act of sharing something with him can be a comfort.

I hope you have people around you to help bring you some comfort too, maybe you have discovered The Compassionate Friends. I just want to thank you for sharing some of your story here. Feel free to come back and visit, read some of my husband’s entrees and leave a comment. One of us will respond, sometimes it takes me a while, I am someone who has to think about things for a while before I can find the words to respond.

God Bless, Debbie


Roberta Korntved January 30, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I lost my son in July 2011. He died of a brain aneurysm. He was 15 years old. I’m reading your blogs and feeling so connected to your grief, though I am a few years behind you. I too decorated for Austin at the cemetery this year, but for me this was the 1st time. I wondered as I did it if I would continue to feel compelled to do these things year after year . . . Shovel a path through the snow to him, make sure his stone is not covered up. Only little things that I can do for him since he no longer needs me to help with homework, or clean laundry for his football practice. It makes me feel better, hoping that he sees that I won’t just move on without him. That I’m going to take him with me. He didn’t get much time on this earth, but he did get more than some (and I do appreciate that!). I’ve told people that I really feel blessed and proud of Austin, that whatever God sent him here to do, he was able to accomplish in just 15 years time. He really was a special kid and I understand why God wanted him back – – heck, I wanted to keep him too, didn’t I. Thank you for your posts!


Debbie Mudd February 1, 2012 at 12:00 am


Oh how I understand. This was the third year we’ve decorated for Richard, and I guess we’ll continue the ritual. This year I found myself looking for special decorations at the after Christmas sales just for his tree. Something that reminded me of him in some way. It is the only thing I know to do for him, the only way I can take care of him. And that, I guess is what I keep trying to do…take care of my baby.

Somehow I think he lets me know what he doesn’t like. The rose bushes we put there just didn’t grow well at all, they looked horrible. Yet the shamrock kept coming back last year, and the rust colored mum came back and was beautiful. And the strawberries we planted behind his stone are flourishing, we’re going to have to thin those out. But Richard LOVED strawberries, and one day while I was at work it just hit me, we could give him something he really liked…strawberries. So I bought two plants and Joe and I went out there and put them on the back side of his stone and wow have they taken off.

Your Austin was much younger than our Richard. Richard was living away from home, so I didn’t have him to do for everyday. But he would call me sometimes when I was at work and say, “what’s for dinner Mother?” and I would come home and fix something for him. Or he’d ask me to fix something I use to make for him and he would come home for that.

He was such a wonderful young man, and like you I am just so very thankful to God that he was a part of our lives. Just not long enough…buy then it would never have been long enough for me no matter when God chose to take him back.

This connection we have as grieving parents is something no one who hasn’t been there can understand. I hope you feel free to visit us any time. One of us will respond.

Take care and God Bless
Debbie Mudd


April Crist November 7, 2012 at 10:45 pm

We lost our grandson our first grandchild 2 weeks before the due date. Austin is never out of my mind. I am looking for a little tree to put in the vase of his headstone for Christmas. I want to show him that grandma and grandpa will never forget him and will always celebrate with him just like we would have had he made it. Any ideas where I might find my little Austin’s Christmas tree??


Debbie Mudd November 12, 2012 at 11:21 pm


I am so sorry about little Austin. We had our Richard with us for 22 wonderful years. And I am so very thankful for every one of them. It doesn’t matter how much time we’re given with them it would never be enough.

I found our tree for Richard at Lowes. They had a nice selection of live, potted trees, decorated and plain. It was our intention to put it at the cemetery then plant it elsewhere. I have seen some lately at out local Kroger store. But I will probably go back to Lowes again this year. I have been collecting little ornaments to decorate it with. I usually tie them to the branches with some ribbon, or in some cases I remove the little wire loop from the top of the ornament and use it to fasten it to the branch. It depends on what it is. I always try to get something small and looks like him. And knowing it will have to be outside in the wind and weather, I try to attach whatever I put on it as securely as possible.

I have seen some people use something called a saddle the sits on top of the stone, and have considered it, but Richard always loved the tree so very much, I just have to do the tree. Also, I’ve heard of some florists that will do this kind of thing. But I just want to do it myself. Its just one of the few things I can still do for him.

What ever you decide to do I am sure your little Austin will love it and appreciate being remembered.

Take care and God Bless.


Jeff December 21, 2012 at 10:51 pm

I am surprise I did not notice your website before. I am glad to read that you have been able to decorate your loved ones’ cemetery with such freedom. I started a blog called Cemetery Freedom News at to build a community of awareness concerning cemetery policies that I believe limits a survivor’s ability to mourn by practicing what I call a “policy of taste.” We all mourn in our own special ways by decorating the cemetery headstone with many different things. Some put their child’s toys on the foot of the stone, some like yourself are lucky to be able to plant a Christmas Tree, and others have started strapping the headstone with these panels that have embroideries on them. The last one was brought to our attention by a company at, which have been helpful to letting us know about issues they’ve faced.

The Cemetery Freedom News have found stories in which the toys and decorations left at the headstone was thrown away. If you hear stories that concern cemetery decoration issues please post. Thanks


Brooke October 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I lost my son willis almost most seven years ago. I found this website looking for ideas to decorate his grave for Christmas this year. Willis was one of two identical twins. My son walker survived. They had twin to twin transfusion. I have helped my grief by helping other parents going through similar situations. I send out bereavement package for the TTTS foundation. Walker is almost 7, we miss willis and talk about him all the time . I wonder, would he be like walker? I know he would look like him but I wonder if their personalities would be the same. I thought somehow years ago that I would some day over come my grief but Ive realized grief for a child never goes away. I know I didn’t have as much time with my children as many of you did but the loss still hurts tremendously although I cant imagine how many of you must feel.


Joe November 3, 2013 at 3:54 pm

We always decorate the grave of our daughter each year at Christmas. It allows us a connection during the holidays that we might not otherwise have.


Barb November 27, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I lost my 27 year old daughter on 9/9/13 very unexpectedly. I am trying to find a solar powered lit Christmas tree to place at her grave. She loved Christmas and I just have to make her space look festive. Has anybody seen such a tree? I like the idea of a small tree, but I’m not sure if the cemetery would let us plant it. I’m so glad I found your site, I feel like a recluse going slowly crazy. I just can’t imagine life without my daughter.


Virginia December 3, 2013 at 9:39 am

Today marks six months since my son, John, passed away after a long illness. I’ll head out soon to decorate his grave for Christmas, but I’ll have to stop weeping first. This is a monumental day for me, and I’m thankful for finding this opportunity to express myself. God bless all of you who have also lost a child. Life goes on – just place one foot in front of the other.


Wendy November 20, 2014 at 12:14 pm

I was looking through this site for something special for my sons Anthony’s grave. And it was a blessing I found it. Anthony left me on January 7th at 7:01 am of this year 2014, very unexpectedly of Pancreatitis. He died within 48 hours. He and his family ( he left 2 small children) spend every christmas with us, expecially since his birthday is December 26th. This year he would have been 35. I do not know how to get through this christmas, but I go to the cemetary every day and decorate for every holiday. It makes me feel like I can still do something for him, that I cannot do for him here on earth. Thank God for my faith, otherwise I would never have made it this far.


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Marilyn December 11, 2017 at 5:13 pm

Thank you Debbie and all the parents that are sharing their stories. Only wish I would have found this site soon. I’m putting a tree at my daughter Imani’s grave, she was 21. She passed Jan of 2015, the tears still flow. It’s said that angels collect our tears in jars, I must have several jars. Last year was my first time putting a Xmas, looking for away to better secure it. Praying for all the grieving parents and warm memories embrace us the holidays and through out the year. May God replace joy for sorrow and beauty for ashes. Peace & love


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