Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Road Side Art?

Every day, I see this memorial of a young girl who had just received her drivers license. She is not the only one who has died here. Later on down the road, is another memorial of a young man.
I live in a small agricultural farming community, and we have many long country roads that entice young drivers to speed, or not pay enough attention during the long stretches of pavement. Eventually, a new memorial shows up and becomes part of the scenery like new art that suddenly appears. At first, it is always so tragic to see, especially if we, by some slim chance, didn't already hear about the accident. But as time passes, the silk flowers fade, vandals take the mementoes and someone looses interest in it's upkeep. Then the city sweeps everything away and leaves a bare spot. I think this is very sad and I have mixed feelings regarding the idea of putting up a memorial on a city street. Some people may argue that it's no different than a plaque dedication on a building, or a pillar somewhere near an important historical site, (obviously, I have already had these discussions :) but these memorials have a graveyard kind of feel to them. To me, they look misplaced and it's not somewhere one can stop for reflection, or have a conversation with your loved one. It just says, "John Doe died right here on this very spot." And, I'm sorry, but they always give me a more creepy feeling than a reflective one.
~ I get a lot of Federal Express stuff brought to my house. I am always ordering something online for the business, and I also get many packages from well wishers and my hubbies latest toys. So, another thing that comes with living in a small town is that, I really get to know my postal delivery people. We are friendly and call each other by name. Because I have lupus, I am one of the few people that are actually home and able to answer the door to chat about the weather, our kids, my health and the like. Mr. R is my Fed Ex man and he has had this route for quite some time, a few years I think. 3 weeks ago, I got a package, it was a record breaking hot day and Mr. R was overheated and breathing hard. In my concern, I got him a big glass of iced water, which he gulped down in a flash, and then we had a delightful conversation. He left and my day resumed, as did his.
~Minutes later I heard police and fire sirens blaring close by and knew that it must have been something big because the sirens just kept on coming for an unusual amount of time. I called a friend (you know...like you do when the electricity shuts off) and we discussed the dire sounds of the last few minutes. Later, she called me back, "Darlene, it was a head on collision on X road! A semi-truck crossed over the center line and instantly killed a Fed Ex driver!!!"
~I asked if his name was Mr. R, was he African American, what was his route? Was it a man, a big man? Who, who who?" No answers. The news paper the next day didn't help in the identity either. The person was referred to as "the Fed Ex employee." Ever since that day, Mr. R has not knocked on my door again. I had been seeing this kind man, who works so very hard, but always asks me, "How's your health today, Mrs S?" and I haven't seen him since that day. I want to call the office, but a part of me is afraid to. I want to find out that his route got changed, not that he was the Fed Ex employee.
~Now when I drive down that part of road X, I look for a new memorial, and breathe out hard when I don't see one. Maybe it takes some of the families more time than other's to muster up the emotional strength required to actually build one? Maybe they don't agree with honoring someone that way? Maybe I'll just have to make that phone call after all.
~My point is this...if a memorial suddenly did show up on the side of the road and it was for Mr. R, I would have an emotional attatchment to it. I might even go as far as putting something there, along with all the other small items that get glued in place. I may even talk to him as I pass by in my car, letting him know that no one delivers my packages like he did, or that I miss him asking me how I was feeling that day. Or, having small chats over a glass of cold water on a hot day.
~So, I drive towards the memorial that you see in the picture above and now I say, "I'm sorry Tasha, I'm sure you were a delightful, beautiful young lady and I'm sure that your parents miss you a great deal and keep you in their hearts." I no longer look at it as an 'out of place' memorial. It is now a reminder that I am lucky to be alive and that every once in awhile the ones that are gone need to be reminded that they are still special and loved...maybe even by a stranger.


Blogger bb said...

My goodness Darlene.

What to say to that?

Would it put your mind at ease to know what happened?

If it is the worst news, well, that poor, poor man.

These friendships we build up that have no name, so hard to explain to others the significance of them. But you managed that here, sweetness.

You've made this post your 'roadside tribute'.

Love to you x x x x x

3:20 AM  
Blogger my pink sky said...

wow. life is always showing us new ways to look at things. thank you for this kinder, gentler view. your words shed new light.

4:10 AM  
Blogger Turquoise CRO said...

and maybe they will remind someone they are going way too fast and maybe even save their life that day! I had a simiar post a while back Darlene, these poor drivers are highly stressed so that glass of water was very very kind and probably needed! My son doesn't drive for UPS now since he had 2 serious mishaps while training, sliced fingers and stitches, and going to the hospital for dangerous dehydration, people don't realize what time limits these drivers are under and stress! I think I would call....have a sweet Tuesday darling! xoxoxox

8:20 AM  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

my first thought was that if it was indeed your friend Mr. R...that he visited an angel on earth before he went to his next life and that angel was you with a glass of cold water. That is a very peaceful thought.

love you,
lil sis

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Teresa said...

Where we live the Native Americans really do these little road side "memorials" up big time. They are always very decorated--I agree with you they are kinda sorta creepy. I don't care for them, not so much, it is too sad.

I am so sorry about your FedEx man, but if it isn't him maybe he was reassigned to a different area. If it was him I agree with your sister that he was with an angel before his passing. Something comforting about that vision.

Much love your way today!!


1:03 PM  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

this post really choked me up because usually i have the same opinion about the memorials as you do...now i will view them differently too...

1:51 PM  
Anonymous angela marie said...

WOW! I have to tell you, I have told my family several times, that if any thing should happen to me in a accident like this, I do NOT, repeat NOT want this memorial tribute...And I still don't. And I have always looked down on such..You have soften my heart once again.

Thank you my sweet dear friend.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Bek said...

You are so special Dar.
I cried when I read this.
I am still crying. A lot.
Your words are, as always... so beautiful.

I think Mr R. would have died in a moment of contentment... and happiness for the lovely lady who gave him a glass of water on a hot day.

We are thinking of putting up a memorial for my brother Brett. On the road where he died in a grizzly motorcycle accident in July.

Maybe you will feel some peace if you do the same for Mr R.?

I, like you do now... say a prayer for the souls of such memorials as I drive by.
I am sure they are really missed, just like Brett and Mr R.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Wow. The tears are flowing. You know, whenever I pass a memorial, I always put my hand over my heart and offer a small prayer. The memorials are such a sweet gesture from grieving family members. There's just something about the very place that your loved one drifted away. Often times, I wish that I could go back to my Dad's hospital room where he died. I really can't explain why I want to do that, either, I just do.

Love to you, Darlene. And I'm so much hoping the Mr. Fedex is on a different route...


7:55 AM  
Blogger Madeleine said...

hmmm....that it such a thought provoking post. i think though that you are right, that unless there is a personal connection, perhaps it can seem out of place. but once a personal connection made, how important perhaps these little memorials can be flags of hope, and memories waving in the wind everytime they drive past. sometimes people need these visible, tangible connections when someone dies.

lots of love to you and your friend

4:33 PM  
Blogger liz elayne said...

wow. wow i say again.

i feel at a loss in some ways. the fragility of it all. how we never know how we affect someone. you maybe being the last earth angel that man connected with (if it was him in the crash). how i wish you could tell his family how he touched you.

i also appreciate the full cirlce way you wrote this post. the tributes and your own experience that put them in a different perspective.

8:58 AM  

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