Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. It’s a pain that never really goes away. You just sort of learn to live with it, and continue on with a gaping hole in your heart. A family in North Carolina lost their son to pediatric leukemia last year, and recently had that wound ripped open in a cruel way. When their son Jake died, Crystal and Wayne Leatherman ordered a customized grave marker to commemorate his final resting place. Then, in an astonishingly awful move, the company they used had the headstone repossessed over a payment dispute. There are no words.
Jake lost his battle with leukemia in November 2016. The family decided on a beautiful headstone for his grave. And now, almost a year after his death, they’re left feeling gutted all over again.
Crystal discovered the grave marker was missing when she visited her son’s resting place a couple of weeks ago. She and her husband were obviously angry and distraught. The company who made the headstone, Southeastern Monument Company, says the removal was prompted by a month-long payment dispute. Reverend J.C. Shoaf runs the company. He says that the family did pay the initial amount due for the headstone. But according to Shoaf, additional charges from a change to the design remained unpaid.
However, the Leathermans say they were not made aware of any dispute, and say they would have gladly paid the difference had they known about it. Instead, they went to visit their son and found his headstone repossessed.
Amanda Foster WBTV spoke with both the parents of the 5-year-old and the company who made the marker. Hear from both of them, on WBTV News at 11pm.
Wayne Leatherman told the Charlotte Observer, “We could have paid them, if he brought them up. This is our little boy. We spent two years in the hospital with him and this marker is what my wife wanted for him.” The changes made to the marker amounted to an additional $2500. But the Leathermans maintain that they did not know the price would change, and were not told about it.
The outcry over the actions of the company have led to Shoaf having a change of heart. He issued an apology on Tuesday, and offered to have the headstone replaced at no cost to the family.
He offered his condolences, and acknowledged that having the headstone repossessed wasn’t the best course of action. In a statement to WBTV, Shoaf said, ““We waive all expenses from the Leatherman family. If there are charges to be paid to the cemetery to have this reinstalled, we will pay all expenses for doing that. … In hindsight, it was a big mistake to have the cemetery remove it, we see it now, but we do offer the family our condolence and forgiveness … we hope they forgive us. It has hurt everybody involved, and we hope they have it in their heart to forgive us for it. Our prayers are with the family, and we hope we can be friends down the road.”
The family had been planning on hiring a lawyer, and were working with another company to have the headstone replaced.
It’s unclear if they plan on moving forward with the new company, or accepting Shoaf’s offer. The family says they are too upset to visit the grave site until it’s resolved.
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