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Roadside memorials to the dead and gone.


This past weekend while my wife and I were driving home from a peaceful family get-together, we saw something that seemingly shocked our normalcy for a bit. A group of people were gathered along side a major highway putting a makeshift memorial together near a tree. 

A grown man was clutching a child, all the while he was weeping. Other people were gathered around the site in the same fashion, obviously moved to tears if not more. There was a large degree of emotion at that site, I can tell even though we were passing by at a fairly speedy clip.

Something awful had occurred there. A death, of course.
The last place that a human being inhabited a body on the planet earth..
The last place someone was breathing in mortal temple of the soul.

There are some important questions I will get to about these sites, some thoughts as well. But think for a second the meaning behind them when you drive by.. People not directly affected by the deaths of whomever passed at the countless sites are reminded of their own mortality, at least for a second. There may be a “it will never happen to me” feeling when we see wreathes and decorations, often clothing and flowers that are placed to memorialize the location where something undoubtedly died violently. We don’t know who else died with them, or was injured, however we should fully realize the ripple effect that the deaths had.

About ten Christmases ago—time goes so fast—my wife’s co-worker was talking to her son while he was driving home. He died in a car accident—while they were in conversation. I cannot imagine the prospects of living with hearing a death in such a way, and especially think about the concept of Christmas being stolen for the rest of my life because tragedy happened on the day we are supposed to be filled with cheer and happiness.

And likewise, I cannot conceive the grief that people are feeling when they adorn a site of tragedy with hopeful icons of someone’s life. I have mixed feelings myself. But not being a part of a family that did or, I don’t think I can judge.

People do judge, though.

And in some places, people want them banned.

I read a varied amount of opinions concerning the subject..

A few points that opiners make while opining on the decorated death scenes:

They violate the separation of church and state, because religious symbolism is used in a public place.. they also violate laws of people taking public property for private purposes.. And they are a distraction. One argument—this one perhaps is the weightiest to me—is that accidents occur in dangerous portions of highway. And since that is true, why decorate that already dangerous location with distracting flair and cause potentially further accidents at the same place. When my wife and I saw the decorators of death this weekend, we did take note of how endangered they were, closely standing near the edge of a busy 55mph but REALLY 70 mph highway with infants, children, and elderly persons. . . it takes only one second. They already know that most likely due to the unfortunate demise of a person in their own family or circle of friends.

There are schools of thought that consider these roadside reminders morbid. Others that think they are beautiful.

What is not debate is this: They are more frequent than ever before. Countless locations and obviously countless deaths…

I really don’t want to take any side on this argument, but I will simply convey concerns that the locations are so often in an already perilous location fraught with heavy traffic and careless drivers. Common sense should be shown by anyone who decides to initiate a roadside reminder of mortality.

And because it is personal, because someone did lose a life, I cannot dictate any opinion.. and I think it would be a difficult if not dumb thing to regulate. Regardless of any law, I feel they’d be as abundant then as they are now.

They are personal locations. Very personal churches for those who want to remember, mourn, and celebrate.

And who am I to write anything contrary to someone’s right to do that.
Who knows… perhaps one day I will have a location along a highway. Or maybe you. So perhaps now is the best time to limit commentary for the fact you’d be called a hypocrite beyond the grave..Or beyond the roadside location of your earthly providence.

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