You know how every once in a while you’ll see a little memorial shrine set up by the side of the road for someone who had died there? Crosses, wreaths, candles, teddy bears. Respectfully, I find these iconic altars curious. I’m not the type of person who is drawn to return to a geographical location of death or burial. For my own personal self, it's too morbid. I prefer to remember my loved ones the way they were in my life, not by visiting a quiet piece of land where their bones lie six feet below my feet, nor the place where their blood once spilled, carrying their soul - the part I loved - out with it. But everyone deals with loss differently.
There’s a little shopping area near my office. Very typical – containing a market, nail salon, Chinese restaurant, candy store, bowling alley … things like that. There are several entrances into the shopping area from the surrounding main roads. On one of these entrances, in the little island of land moated by curbs separating incoming and outgoing lanes, is one of these memorials.
The adornments circulate and vary. There are usually flowers. Sometimes action figures. Often an assumedly handmade wooden cross. Occasionally written items are tacked to the tree (letters, poems, lyrics?) in protector sheets. Now and then a picture will be there. 8x10, a young man with chestnut hair and a groomed beard. Once I saw a pizza left there, from a shop located in another area of town, carefully placed as if to share. I assume it was his favorite. This morning someone had lit a candle. The kind that comes in a tall thin glass jar featuring a screenprint of Madonna and Child. The wax was yellow. Despite the wind and misty rain, the flame burned strongly.
What happened there? Was he in a car accident? Was he in a fight? Shot? Stabbed? Did he simply trip and crack his head on the curb?
Who tends to this site? His significant other? His family? His friends? Does only one person return and return to keep the point of his last moments on earth marked, or do hoards of those who loved him circulate by?
I’ve been at my present company for going on 8 years, and often run to this shopping center for errands on my way to or from work. I use that entrance frequently as it is less traveled. And always, this shrine has been tended. I’ve never seen anyone there, but clearly it is visited and kept up. Someone, be it one or many, has kept that man’s memorial freshened up and its adornments rotated for at least 8 years now, and possibly longer. I find myself struggling to remember something about this person whom I’d never met. A person who, regardless of that fact, was clearly loved in life and missed in death. So much so that this humble makeshift site of remembrance is never neglected to this day.
I suppose that’s the purpose. To ensure that this life is remembered, even if there are no memories. To cause others, even complete strangers, to pause and wonder – and remember even abstractly that he was ... that he just was.
I never knew him, but I doubt I’ll ever forget him either.
1 week ago