Krystina Gilbert fought brain cancer for years before it took her life at the young age of 33. When her family arrived at the cemetery for the funeral service, it couldn’t believe its eyes.Screenshot/WKYT News
As WKYT News reported, Krystina’s family planned to lay her to rest at Athens Boones Creek Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky — the same cemetery where Krystina’s grandparents are buried. But when it came time for the graveside ceremony, the family discovered that Krystina’s grave was only about a foot deep.
In the video below, Krystina’s sister, Heidi Lawson, told WKYT:
“We expected a normal setup where you would have a hole dug and maybe a tarp, or something nice, over the dirt and chairs and things, and when we got here, there was a man in basically construction clothes leaning against a shovel, smoking a cigarette.”
With few other options, the family did the only thing it could. It picked up shovels and finished digging the grave themselves.
Lawson told WKYT it took hours to finish digging Krystina’s grave, and that, “her husband, my fiance, her family, all the men in both families,” all pitched in to help.
It was especially traumatic for Roger Gilbert, Krystina’s husband, who told WKYT:
“So many emotions is going through me. I wanted to cry one minute. I didn’t know how to act.”
After seeing his wife struggle through six years of cancer treatment, Roger said it was difficult to have her funeral disrupted in this way. He told the Lexington Herald-Leader, “She didn’t deserve that.”
Lawson agreed. She told WKYT she was still angry the day after the service, and that it had made her “sick to my stomach” to pull up and see someone still digging the grave.
Jerry Williams, the cemetery caretaker, was apologetic, but he said the family’s payment was too late to give them enough time to finish digging the grave. He also disputed the grave was only a foot deep, saying it was almost done when the family got there.
Williams told the Herald-Leader he thinks the cemetery staff did a good job under the circumstances and added:
“I can understand why they are upset, and I tried to talk to the [husband], but he just didn’t want to talk. They got down in the hole and finished digging. They didn’t do anything but clean up the hole, because it was already dug.”
The cemetery plans to refund the family the $600 burial fee, but Williams said the cost of the burial site won’t be refunded unless they dig Krystina back up.
However, the family said it is not looking for any reimbursement, and it only wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
It reportedly took the family hours to finish digging the grave. After laying Krystina to rest, it filled in the grave as well. Several family members have shared photos of the process on Facebook as evidence of the state of the grave when they arrived.
Lawson told WKYT that as hard as it was to say goodbye to her sister, it was good her family was there to help: “At least my family is the one who took care of her. I guess, family it all that matters. That’s the one in the end who’s going to take care of things.”