I drove from one town to another yesterday to meet my mother for lunch. On my way out of town I followed a country road and passed a telephone pole with a picture of a young man stapled to it. Under his photo were bunches of flowers and some stuffed animals.
I had read about him just last week. He was very young, only eighteen I believe, and he was a local athlete about to travel to represent his town in a competition. I can’t remember the sport; I just remember thinking how sad that his bright future was cut short so soon. I also read that speed and alcohol were thought to be a factor. 🙁
As I drove by and saw the roadside memorial I wondered about the people that had placed the flowers and stuffies there. Who were they to him and how, if at all, did this memorial help them to heal? Did they do it so that people would remember this young man and say “ah, this is where it happened”, or did they do it as a warning that this part of the road had claimed a life so slow down or it could be you next? Why are so many people inclined to put up these roadside memorials? On my way back home later in the day I passed three more along a different highway.
I tried to imagine if I would do the same if my son were killed on a stretch of highway. (A. Very. Painful. Exercise I can tell you.) I don’t know. I just don’t know if I would be drawn to or repelled by the place that witnessed his last breath. Would I feel that I was closer to him there; that there was some invisible doorway and if I stayed close I might get another glimpse of him? When I look at that telephone pole I am reminded of a violent end to a young mans life. I tend to believe that is what I would see if he were my own son and that vision would keep me from the place. But again, I don’t really know for sure and I hope I never find out.
My husband is not a fan of roadside memorials. He doesn’t think memorials belong along roads. That it should be a more private affair and not shared with motorists who are becoming immune to seeing them anyway because there are so many now. In the past I’ve been moved by some and I have to admit I’ve also thought some were…well…kinda tacky looking but I don’t mind them being there. If it gives some degree of comfort to those who have lost a loved one then what’s the harm I say. But would I feel the need to visit the exact spot my loved one was taken from me? I just don’t know. What do you think? Are roadside memorials helpful or a little macabre?
p.s. Don’t forget to turn all your lights off Saturday night (march 26) at 8:30pm. It’s Earth Hour again!