City removes beloved Lego figures from grave of 7-year-old cancer victim

Click to play video: 'Heartbroken family wonders what happened to gravesite tribute'
Heartbroken family wonders what happened to gravesite tribute
WATCH: A heartbroken BC mother who lost her young son to cancer more than a year ago is wondering what happened to the Lego tribute that was a fixture at his gravesite – Mar 17, 2017

The family of a seven-year-old boy who passed a way from leukemia in 2015 is reeling after cherished Lego minifigures were removed from his grave site in Vancouver.

Sean Thomas had been fighting leukemia for much of his life.

His cancer was in remission after a bone marrow transplant, but in November 2015, it came back and there was nothing else doctors could do.

But his love for Lego minifigures, which Sean called “little guys,” is what kept him busy during chemotherapy sessions and helped him remain a kid through his battle with cancer.

Just weeks before his death, Sean was granted his ultimate wish – a visit to the Legoland theme park in California — thanks to the kindness and donations of strangers, including Global BC viewers.

WATCH: Sean’s last wish was to take a trip to the Legoland theme park in California. 

Sean passed away on Nov. 24, 2015 and was buried in Mountain View cemetery in Vancouver, where his grave site was decorated with his favourite Lego minifigures.

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Sean’s mother, Tina Thomas, says it is their family’s sanctuary, where, they feel, they can have their private time with Sean.

“It is a place of comfort for us. We feel close to Sean here in particular, because we know he is buried here,” Thomas said. “Even in death, I wanted him to feel happy. Even though he is not physically here to touch these items, I know that he knows they are there.”

The family visits Sean’s grave site every week, so when Thomas was paying a visit to the grave site on Thursday, she noticed that all the minifigures were gone.

“I could not believe it,” Thomas said. “It just really tore my heart out.”

The cemetery is owned by the City of Vancouver and has a policy that nothing but fresh cut flowers and potted plants can be left at grave sites.

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Grounds crews have put up signs around the cemetery reading in small print, “All other items placed in the cemetery will be removed by cemetery staff regularly and disposed.”

John Hua, Global News

Thomas says she talked to the grounds keeping crew, and was initially told the toys were not cleared out as part of the maintenance process.

But the City has now confirmed to Global News the cemetery staff tossed the items out.

Glen Hodges, manager of Mountain View Cemetery, says the cleaning happens every year, but sometimes staff struggle with picking certain items up and disposing them.

“It’s very difficult for staff to physically go and pick these things up [from infant graves]. They might have been trying to do a favour and leave these things there.”
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Thomas maintains the minifigures have been at Sean’s grave site since he was buried there in December 2015 and she is devastated to hear that is what happened.

“It is not something we just put there last week. These pieces are irreplaceable,” said Thomas. “To most people they are just stuff, but these items meant a lot to Sean…There is a feeling of emptiness. It’s like losing a part of Sean all over again.”

Hodges admits the inconsistency could lead to confusion.

“The guy who picked that up and put that in the bin is just going to feel terrible,” he said.

Hodges added he and his staff will be reviewing the sensitivity of their policies on clearing personal items off gravestones in the future.

-With files from John Hua and Amy Judd 

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