Historian and storyteller Meg Barnes (@megbarnes22) gained over 4.3 million views, 413,000 likes and 2,500 comments when she uploaded the touching restoration to her account.
While families often visit their loved ones’ final resting places as a way to heal — like this dad and toddler who went viral when they filmed their tear-jerking visit to their wife and mom’s grave — as time passes, many graves are lost to the echoes of time.
But thanks to kind souls like Meg, these gravestones and the lives they represent are given the love and attention they deserve.
But Meg doesn’t just clean the neglected headstones; she also researches the individual and their families, then shares their stories on TikTok — thus honoring them and helping to keep their memories alive, even hundreds of years after their passing.
In the case of this tiny headstone, located in Cole Hill Cemetery in North Brookfield, N.Y., Meg discovered that little Eva Stevens died on May 8, 1859.
Because she was born between census years, baby Eva’s birth was never documented nationally, nor was her death ever announced. “Her headstone was the only evidence I could find that she existed,” explained Meg.
But after further research, Meg learned that Eva’s parents were Orlando and Rose Stevens, who went on to have two other children. After dying in their 70s, the couple was buried in a cemetery on the other side of town, leaving baby Eva alone in Cole Hill. (Meg speculates this could be because the town stopped using Cole Hill Cemetery by the time Orlando and Rose died.)
Once she had unearthed the gravestone, which had been swallowed up by grass and dirt over the years, Meg noticed the scroll-shaped stone was topped with a broken rosebud — a Victorian-era symbol that represented a life cut short.
According to Meg, she always obtains permission to clean and restore gravestones from the cemetery keepers or landowners, and she is very particular about her cleaning materials, using ones that will not harm the stones or the wildlife around them.
After cleaning baby Eva’s headstone, Meg returned six months later to see how it had brightened — revealing a stunningly restored stone that hardly looks 163 years old.
‘You are a wonderful person for what you do’
TikTokers were immensely moved by Meg’s caring restoration — especially parents who had lost babies of their own.
“As a mum who lost my 5 week old daughter, I hope in many years to come, when I’m long, long gone, someone as special as you does this for her. My Kacey ❤️,” one parent shared.
“The cemetery that has our daughter… I bring roses to all the old baby graves. I cry for mine and all the babies there. I know many of the babies,” another parent wrote.
“What you are doing is wonderful. I pray someone [will] clean my son’s stone 100 years from now,” commented another parent.
To these comments, Meg replied, “I like to think their mommas are with me when I clean the little ones’ stones. 💕”
Many TikTokers took the time to thank Meg for her work and compassion.
“I’m always so touched by the work you do,” one user wrote.
“I love how you talk about each person. You [make] sure they’re celebrated,” another user commented.
“Thank you for doing what you do and sharing with us,” replied another user.
“You are a wonderful person for what you do,” commented another.
For those inspired to follow in Meg’s footsteps and start cleaning headstones in their own local cemeteries, Meg has put together a very helpful how-to video that explains her process.
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