Grave concerns about traveller’s final wishes

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A WIDOW has spoken about her year long battle to have her late husband’s grave presented in accordance with her faith.

Theresa Millis, 69, of Rivermead, Pulborough lost her husband Tony just weeks before their 50th wedding anniversary.

The couple are travellers and Mrs Millis has requested that her husband’s grave in St Mary’s Church, London Road, Pulborough has stone edging to stop people walking over it.

Many travellers believe that the soul remains trapped inside the body until this edging is in place – only then is it set free.

So far the church has refused to grant the widow’s wishes, although a final decision has not yet been made.

Mrs Millis claims that one of the church’s concerns is that the edging will stop access for mowing, however, she has argued that they have already approved a little fence around the grave at the moment and she makes sure that the grave is maintained.

She said: “They asked what would happen when I die, but we have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all of which will help. There are some graves that are in a poor state, so I just don’t get it.”

Mrs Millis said that her plans for the edging and headstone are not what you would call ‘spectacular’ and she has submitted variations as a compromise.

These have been sent to St Mary’s Church in Pulborough, the Parochial Church Council, which is in charge of the churchyard, and the Dioceses of Chichester.

The saga has been ongoing for a year and is currently with the chancellor of the Dioceses, as of Tuesday September 6 no decision had been made.

If her proposal is refused, Mrs Millis is considering taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights, which could leave her waiting for another four or five years.

A statement from the Dioceses of Chichester said: “The Church of England has a robust mechanism for the granting of permission for headstones within our churchyards which helps to preserve their sanctity.

“Each Diocese applies regulations as laid down by the chancellor of that Diocese.”

The chancellor said: “Churchyards are an important feature of both rural and urban communities: an historic record of successive generations, a home for funerary monuments of architectural and aesthetic excellence, a setting for the church itself, many of which are listed buildings, and a place for reflection and prayer.”

For now it is a waiting game, Mrs Millis said. “It is just upsetting, I had just started to be OK with it but now it has all come back. It is bad enough losing someone you love, but all this hasn’t helped.”

“I just want the headstone and grave my late husband would have wanted.”