Lisa Rawlings’ calling in life brings peace and healing to her clients—and herself
By Karen Hendricks | Photography by Casey Martin
Dolly Parton’s unmistakable voice floats across the graveyard, carried on a chilly breeze, sweeping down Adams County’s Harbaugh Valley. Her music provides the soundtrack for Lisa Rawlings’ workday.
Humming along, absorbed in her work, Rawlings focuses on the gravestone in front of her. Perched on a stool, her purple rubber-gloved hands gripping a long gray brush, she scrubs a 60-year-old gravestone—the kind that marks a double grave for a husband and wife who wanted to be remembered as they likely lived—side-by-side.
“I feel like it’s an honor for me to come and do this. I don’t want them to be forgotten,” says Rawlings, 47, of Fairfield.
She founded her business—A Peace of Mind Grave Care and Services—two years ago. Following a series of tragedies, her career path became clear.
Life-Changing Chain of Events
About 16 years ago, she was the sole witness to a horrific car crash, caused by a driver’s heart attack.
“I felt a connection to this man; I was the only one who saw what happened,” says Rawlings, who felt a responsibility to talk to his family and attend his funeral.
Shortly thereafter, her father passed away. There was also joy—she and her husband welcomed three children, yet they lost three children to miscarriages. Her mother’s death followed.
Professionally, Rawlings transitioned from being a corporate events planner to a wedding planner. A marketing position for Washington County (Maryland) Hospice led to her business, A Peace of Mind.
“My outlook on life shifted and rolled into this business,” she explains.
A Clean Start
Rawlings saw the opportunity to create a business that fulfilled needs—not only for physical grave cleaning, care, and maintenance, but for clients’ spiritual healing and peace of mind. She researched grave cleaning with a friend who helped launch the business.
“Most of my tools are common household tools and scrubbing brushes. And the cleaning solution I use is the same one used at Arlington National Cemetery,” says Rawlings. “It works on all stones—granite, sandstone, and marble—even those from the 1800s.”
On a recent day, Rawlings was working in Jacob’s Church Cemetery, located along Fairfield’s Harbaugh Valley Road. In fact, the stone she was scrubbing marked the graves of Lelah and Walter Harbaugh—surrounded by additional Harbaugh family graves. If you sense a theme, you’re right. Rawlings’ maiden name was Harbaugh.
“These are my people,” she says, gesturing across the hillside. This is where she spends her free time, restoring family graves.
She’s not sure how she’s related to Lelah and Walter, but she scrubs lichens from their granite gravestone just the same. Engraved floral artwork needs finer detailed cleaning—and Rawlings laughs when she reveals the “tool” that works best: a simple wooden skewer. She meticulously retraces the design over and over, until every speck of lichens and grime is gone.
“I’m a Christian—I always start with a prayer for the person, and I always ask God to help me uncover this person and make them shine bright again,” Rawlings says. “It could be years until this stone needs to be cleaned again.”
One of her biggest projects is at St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Clear Spring, Maryland. The church hired her to restore their entire graveyard, dating back to the 1800s.
Many of her clients live in nursing homes—and while they can’t personally visit loved ones’ graves, they can hire Rawlings to maintain those final resting places.
“I ask them about their loved ones—it’s just amazing what you learn about people’s lives,” she says.
Love and a Scrub
Rawlings can restore most gravestones to their original glory in about an hour and a half. Depending on the size and detail, her rates range from $40 to $150 per stone. One client was on the verge of purchasing a new $4,000 headstone before hiring Rawlings to clean it. In addition to lichens, gravestones are typically weathered by mold, moss, and acid rain.
“People don’t always know—the stones just need some love. And scrubbing,” she says. “I feel a personal connection to each person while I’m scrubbing.”
Ultimately, has she too found peace of mind?
“I feel like I have meaning, that I’m making a difference,” Rawlings says. “I used to be in corporate America, where it’s just nose to the ground and keep on going. All in all, I truly believe God has a plan for everyone, and my plan is to help people through their grief and to honor their loved ones—I think that’s what God put me here to do.”
She stands back, scrutinizes, and then scrubs the stone in front of her a little more.
“When you finally find what you’re meant to do,” Rawlings says, “It doesn’t feel like work.”
A Peace of Mind Grave Care and Services