WEST JORDAN (ABC4 News) – She’s been buried in an unmarked grave for nearly 12 years, but now Crystal McLelland lies beneath a beautiful headstone, all because of a friend who’s dedicated to keeping her memory alive.
With a toothbrush, Ginger Phillips scrubbed Crystal’s recently placed gravestone Wednesday afternoon and then shared a poem she wrote for her.
“Everywhere she’d go the sun would always shine,” Phillips read. “The lights crossed over into all of our lives.”
Ginger and Crystal met while both were patients at the Utah State Psychiatric Hospital in Provo in 2007.
“She was very huggy and sweet…She just was spunky,” Phillips told ABC4 News. “She had just turned 20 but she was still like 15 to me, like a little sister. It was fun having a little sister again.”
Ginger smiles as she remembers Crystal’s pigtails, her stuffed Spongebob Squarepants and the time she met Donny Osmond…but two days after Christmas of 2007 Crystal died unexpectedly, the victim of an undiagnosed bowel obstruction.
“They brought all the patients into the dayroom and told us that Crystal died,” Phillips recalls. “I started screaming and just sobbing and they had to take me out because it was just too much.”
Crystal’s family never got her a grave marker so her resting place was marked only by a numbered metal disk. Ginger worked to raise money for a headstone, a seemingly impossible goal until Provo monument maker Nathan Beesley created one and donated it.
“I feel this sense of peace right now, just I never thought it would happen and I’m so glad it did,” Phillips said. “I think I’m the only patient who remembers and cared about Crystal.”
Her memorial poem concludes with the lines “I love you Crystal. You’ll always be like my little sister.”
On Wednesday evening Ginger hosted a small ceremony at the gravesite for Crystal’s friends and staff members from the Utah State Hospital.
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