Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I've been interested in the subject of death since I was a teenager, searching for meaning. At that time, I read all sorts of books on the topic and discussed it with "elders," and took a few anthro-type courses about death in college. I've never been creeped out, as some are, by cemeteries, places and spaces where people die, funerals, the dying, etc. I am trustee for a cemetery, and also live near one. So the phenomenon of shrines interests me.

I didn't feel like repeating this in a comment, but I wrote about roadside memorials here. When I was considering updated thoughts on this issue, what came to mind is a shrine that is on Brookview Road. A 16 year old boy who was riding a bicycle was hit by a drunk driver who left the scene. There was an elaborate memorial near a stone wall at the accident site. It stayed there for years, growing less elaborate over time, but still refreshed every so often. There is now just one of those perpetual flames on the spot.

The house is beautiful, as is the wall, and I guess the people who live there don't mind the memorial, or perhaps participate in maintaining it, I don't know. The boy's (who would now be a young man) family lives only a few houses away. I discovered I wrote about this already, when it happened, here.

This isn't about roadside memorials for car crash victims, but I wrote on the subject of shrines in cemeteries here (as well as other things! The shrine part is the third paragraph).

In Albany there is a bicycle, brightly painted and adorned with flowers and ribbons, chained to a light pole on Western Avenue. It marks the intersection where a woman was hit and killed a few years ago.

The idea of shrines is an interesting cultural phenomenon. Frankly, I don't have a problem with it, although I doubt it is something I would do. If it is private property, I think it should be between the homeowner and the bereaved. Kind people of good sense should not have a problem working it out, how long it stays, etc. I think the owners of the house with the stone wall are a wonderful example.

If it is public property, if it causes problems with traffic visability or danger to memorial visitors, then I think the time could be limited, perhaps an alternate location suggested if the time has to be (too) short. If it is in a place where it doesn't matter, who cares? Why can't we be compassinate, and not judgmental? For instance, the bike is not in a place where it causes problems, why increase the pain to her loved ones?

Besides comforting people who are grieving, I do think the memorials may serve as a reminder to passersby that driving can be dangerous, and life is fleeting, so wake up! Not a bad thing, IMO.

It's too bad that many of the links in those old posts don't work. That's a hassle with the web.

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