May 29, 2009

The roadside memorial at the Anderson ferry.

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Should memorials mark the place where a person died? If so, what standards apply? Is it wrong to nail a stuffed rabbit and paper butterflies to a cross? What if every place where a person died – in the entire history of humanity — had a marker with a name on it? Would you be sitting on one right now? Ever thought about how many people have died on your front lawn (over the past 1 million years)? Ever thought about the fact that somewhere on earth is the place where you will die? Visualize an invisible marker there with your name on it. Where do you think it is? Perhaps you sleep on it every night. If you knew that in fact you did, would you find that comforting?

169 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

If I knew that, I'd find another place to sleep.

rhhardin said...

John and Ken on roadside memorials real audio, May 14 1999.

Original Mike said...

Should memorials mark the place where a person died?No. I'm sorry for their loss, but I think it's selfish of them to stick a visual reminder of it in everybody else's face.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Ever thought about how many people have died on your front lawn (over the past 1 million years)

No I have not, because there were not people here 1 million years ago. Duh!

traditionalguy said...

Creepy stuff. We die at a moment in Time. The place is only the launching pad for the next life. The time we were here is best memorialized by a proper Plaque owned by the family located where he was domociled.The need for a survivor's attention based upon their grief is best met without the monument erections at the spot of the last heartbeat. The ERs would have no room to manoever.

Original Mike said...

Ever thought about how many people have died on your front lawn?My first estimate is 150,000 people.

I better check my math.

Widmerpool said...

Illegal here in Mass.

NKVD said...

Zero on my front lawn. I have a few candidates to chose the first from, however.

I bought a house that I later found out was a funeral home at one time. It was built in 1810, so it had a lot of history. I would not have minded never learning that particular piece of history.

rhhardin said...

When you die, you turn into a place.

Original Mike said...

0.15 people on my front lawn, or 1 person between me and 6 of my neighbors. Better.

MadisonMan said...

Wouldn't it be ironic if markers like that prevented the dead person from moving on to some place more comforting? An anchor to this world, as it were.

Randy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randy said...

No.
See above.
No.
It would be a bit crowded in places.
Maybe.
No.
No.
Since you asked me to visualize one, I know where it is: the pioneer grave behind my back fence.
No. Nor would I find it discomforting.

Patrick said...

In France they (used to at least) put up black cut-outs of people who had died next to the road where they died.

Quite chilling driving past, especially the ones which were two or three big people and a couple small people all together.

Quayle said...

I could support an upright marker for 6 months.

I could support a flat in-ground marker for 1 year or 2, maybe.

But there has to be a limitation, otherwise in some intersections and stretches of road, there's be a veritable graveyard.

Palladian said...

Nothing says "We miss you!" like adhesive mailbox letters and a crucified rabbit.

Jason (the commenter) said...

What if every place where a person died – in the entire history of humanity — had a marker with a name on it?

If it bothers you, just rip it down.

In Europe they used to dig up bodies and sell them for fertilizer to make new room in the graveyards.

Palladian said...

In New York "bicycle activists" put junk bikes, painted white and decorated with myriad crap, at the place where a bicyclist was killed by an evil, hateful motor vehicle.

But this is less memorializing death than politicizing it.

There's no sense in memorializing the dead at the place of death. Because, technically, it's only the exact place of death for a moment once a year (I'm guessing) because of the rotation and orbit of the earth.

Palladian said...

"What if every place where a person died – in the entire history of humanity — had a marker with a name on it?"

There are more people alive now than have ever lived, so I suspect after about 70-80 years the earth would get really crowded with markers.

ockteby said...

I agree

Original Mike said...

technically, it's only the exact place of death for a moment once a year (I'm guessing) because of the rotation and orbit of the earth.Given the solar system's motion through space, it never returns to the same spot. And then, given that each point in the 4-D space-time manifold is unique, ...

Skeptical said...

I don't know how one extricates oneself from memorial maintenance duty. A man was killed by a hit-and-run driver near my house and the family put up a memorial where he was killed. Do they keep it up perpetually? Who says 'Well, it's time to take Dad's memorial down?' I think the state does these people a benefit by putting a stop to it; it ensures that they don't have to decide that Dad has been sufficiently memorialized.

American Liberal Elite said...

Roadside memorials are n arrogation of public property for a private purpose. That said, I would favor permitting them for a limited time, say two weeks, the cost of removal ideally to be borne by the estate.

Bissage said...

I generally cannot abide these roadside memorial thingies.

But that will change. Someday, projected hologram technology will get to the point where there will be ghostly dead people hovering all over the place.

AWESOME!!!

CarmelaMotto said...

A couple of blocks from my house, there was a memorial spray painted on the road and every spring, they would repaint and put candles in the gutter and flowers in the fence. RIP JOE. I always thought that memorial and others like it don't remember the person, just their death. Celebrate their birthday and their life to remember. Not how your friend tried to pass a car on the right and got squished.

It's the spot where they died, not a portal to someone's soul or afterlife. No more memorials is fine with me.

Tibore said...

I don't have a problem with it because it's not really that common yet. But then again, if the countryside starts getting littered with these things, it might indeed become a bit macabre.

I would hate to actually restrict people from doing this; to me, that's a bit of an intrusion on their speech rights. These are tributes to passed people, and I just don't feel right turning an act of community into something illegal. But on the other hand, I wouldn't want to see such memorials stay there too long either; one along a roadside I recall from a few years back stayed there for years. That's a bit excessive. My opinion is that these should not be prevented, but that there should be a time limit to them. What that time limit is should be decided by the public, but there should be a definite end date to them.

traditionalguy said...

Did the militant pro-lifers put up hundreds of little crosses outside a Death Clinic once? That was taken down quick for sure. Out of sight,out of mind. The burial in tombs is a Judeo-Christian tradition. The place of ones burial can be very important to them. I recall that many Hasidic Jews liked to be buried on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem's Eastern Wall side of the Temple Mount to be ready to greet the Messiah.This requires owning the Tomb site.

AJ Lynch said...

LOL. The once wonderful Bissage wins this thread.

Original Mike said...

How did poor Chuck die, anyway? Try to drive onto the absent ferry in the middle of the night?

bearbee said...

Should memorials mark the place where a person died.

No but if one is created make it degradable, maybe made out of birdseed, carrots or apple slices.

Ever thought about the fact that somewhere on earth is the place where you will die?.

Conversation has been along the lines of 'don't claim me' or 'cremate me and throw remains into Lake Michigan.

Too stark?

Nasty, Brutish & Short said...

Some cultural anthropologist should study the shift from mourning at the location where someone is laid to rest (i.e. the cemetery) to the location where the person died (i.e. the roadside memorial). I think it is indicative of something that has changed with our culture, but I’m not sure exactly what.
I do think the shift is tacky, though. And it is unfair to private property owners. What are they supposed to do? So no? Take the crap down and throw it away? It’s just an imposition. There’s one intersection in Butler County where they have these on two different corners—in a mostly residential area. They are right on people’s front lawns!

AlphaLiberal said...

I think roadside memorials for traffic accidents are very helpful reminders to drive more carefully.

But I just recently had a similar reaction in my travels. It's getting to be a bit much.

Sobering to think "no one gets out alive."

Nasty, Brutish & Short said...

Also, Northern Kentucky Ann? Don't go there! Haven't you heard there's a wild boar on the loose?

STAY OFF THAT FERRY.

ricpic said...

The day I die will be like every other day: someone will give me a dirty look. Or as our boy king would say, "I will be disrespected."*






*Of course, in his case it will have been earned, many times over. In mine? Not as many times.

bearbee said...

BTW where did you photograph? Beautiful forests in the background.

bearbee said...

Never mind. Located Google satellite map.

ricpic said...

Those roadside memorials? I always think it's because the schmuck was tanked up and going into a curve at 70 mph on his Harley. And how many innocents did he take out with him?

Chip Ahoy said...

Yes, I have thought about this, and it's a nagging persistent thought. The thought arises involuntarily at those moments when you think you're actually going to die, you think, I do anyway, "So this is where I buy it."

You buy that spot with your life. You own it. You own it in a much deeper far more intimate sense than the actual legal owner because you paid for it with your life, and by "you," I mean, "me." It's more real to the surviving spirit than the place where the body is buried.

I can explain all this in much greater detail if you're interested, but you're not interested, and besides, I'm studying, so this will have to do, but, yes, go ahead and put a marker. It's touching that people acknowledge this profound truth when you're not here to do it yourself.

Having said this, Palladian's remark cracked me up.

Penny said...

"Some cultural anthropologist should study the shift from mourning at the location where someone is laid to rest (i.e. the cemetery) to the location where the person died (i.e. the roadside memorial). I think it is indicative of something that has changed with our culture, but I’m not sure exactly what."

I totally agree. Frankly, I see this as a form of activism. Not only is it a memorial, but also a reminder that driving can be a dangerous sport. For as much as I hate these roadside memorials, I find them more agreeable than legislation that is passed limiting my freedoms because someone did something stupid to another person's loved one. State legislators don't know how to deal with these sensitive issues firmly enough because they fear lost votes. I applaud activism, but someone needs to figure out ways to direct attention in more positive ways to protect the rest of us from creeping invasion of space and freedoms.

Palladian said...

Particularly upsetting are the air fresheners hanging on the left arm of the cross.

When I visit graves I'm going to start leaving air fresheners instead of flowers.

Revenant said...

Visualize an invisible marker there with your name on it. Where do you think it is?

Almost certainly in front of a computer somewhere. :)

Ann Althouse said...

"Particularly upsetting are the air fresheners hanging on the left arm of the cross."

Because death stinks.

Michael Hasenstab said...

OT/
Don't think I didn't notice, Alt House!
/OT

David said...

These memorials are not exactly the pyramids. Most will be gone in a few years, all in a few decades. In the meantime, what the heck. They make someone feel better.

MadisonMan said...

Given the solar system's motion through space, it never returns to the same spot. And then, given that each point in the 4-D space-time manifold is unique, ...

(laugh) The Sun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see, are moving at a million miles a day....

David said...

My father died on a tennis court in Lauderdale by the Sea, Florida, at an old timey resort called The Sea Ranch. I wasn't there at the time he died, but I knew the place. The spot is now covered by a high rise condo building. For some reason it made me quite sad to find out that the resort had been demolished.

ricpic said...

If we're all moving a million miles a day why isn't it always windy?
This question is forgivable as I am not a scientific frame of mind type person.

Skipper50 said...

What drives this fairly recent trend to mourn every loss publicly? If it isn't a display such as this, or seeking a new law so "noone else will have to go through this [tragedy]", it's something else.

twolaneflash said...

Alters for grief junkies, the attention needy, and ghouls. The latest trend in the public display of personal loss and tragedy is the tombstone on the rear window of your vehicle, personalized for your loved one. "Honk if you're sorry my grandma died."

Some things should be private, and if you've got to cry, go do it by yourself, and be quick about it.

Penny said...

Why not leave them up? Because if you live in an area that has a lot of people, as I do, you have a lot of these roadside memorials. I can't drive a half mile in any direction without passing one.

Take some county land and make it into Lost Drivers' Park. Put some non-profit in charge of it and sell memorial bricks or benches or trees. Make it a lovely place for those left behind to visit. Put a little building on the property and take classes of teens there for educational purposes. Have an annual picnic or memorial service. I could go on and on here. I just think there are ways to reshape this current practice into something that is more important, more thought provoking and much more uplifting in the long term.

Dad said...

Wow. Whadda buncha cranks.

Revenant said...

If we're all moving a million miles a day why isn't it always windy?

We've made sure the Senate building is pointed in the direction we're moving. The gusting hot air from our governing class offsets the wind. :)

Original Mike said...

Penny - Don't we have such places already? Aren't they called cemeteries?

Original Mike said...

The Sun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see, are moving at a million miles a day....Well, yes. And, no. Relative to what?

Not that I want to mess up a good Python reference.

dbp said...

"Ever thought about the fact that somewhere on earth is the place where you will die? "

Well, I've thought about this, but always as more of an extremely likely occurance than as a fact.

1. If I live long enough and it become cheap enough, I might die on a tourist trip into space.
2. Or maybe if there is anything to this religion stuff, the world might end while I am still alive. Then I would go to (probably) hell for not being a believer.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Maybe we need more reminders of our own mortality.

Big Mike said...

I drive in to work past two roadside memorials, one a simple white cross and the other a collection of four crosses surrounded in a maintained space set off by landscaping ties.

I feel differently about the two. I think the memorial with four crosses is okay -- the intersection there is more tricky than it looks and I can imagine the memorial serves to remind people to watch out. (Or perhaps it's the other way -- people look at the memorial when they should be looking for vehicles that seem to appear from nowhere?)

The other memorial is at an undistinguished part of the highway -- straight, no intersection, nothing to distinguish it from any other stretch of the road. Sad, but the cross can come down and few would notice.

Balfegor said...

What if every place where a person died – in the entire history of humanity — had a marker with a name on it? Would you be sitting on one right now?

There are countries where that's almost the case. In Korea, when driving through the countryside, you can see from the road that every hillside is dotted with what look like small haystacks. These are graves, and the stones beside them are burial markers.

Big Mike said...

Ever thought about the fact that somewhere on earth is the place where you will die?

I had been hoping to die in space.

Original Mike said...

You'll get your wish, Big Mike. Earth is in space.

pduggie said...

Shudder.

I think a goose just walked over my grave.

Ralph said...

They're illegal in NC, but they still appear. Guess the state is finite, too.

D-Day said...

I would be relieved to find out that I'd die in my current bedroom. I hate moving. It would be nice to know that I wouldn't have to ever again.

Jeremy said...

This is some kind huge problem?

Roadside memorials?

No pun intended, but...get a life.

AJ Lynch said...

Jeremy, the liberal, has no problem with roadside memorials. Hell, he is probably trying to figure out how to tax them.

rhhardin said...

Yellow Goatsbeard, Oxeye Daisy and Poison Ivy roadside memorial, this afternoon.

garage mahal said...

There must be a Hitchcock plot of someone driving along and ghoulishly laughing at one of these homespun markers, and then one day ends up in a fiery wreck after getting distracted by a marker them self. (or is that themselves?)

traditionalguy said...

In Georgia the teenagers started putting up flowers and mementos like children's dolls at site of auto wreck deaths of their friends about ten years ago. My thought was the Princess Diana death's emotional out pourings of love had them thinking their friend's death should also recieve such treatment. Now even adults seem to expect it. I believe the local police now put 90 day limits and then remove them as distractions that cause accidents.

SteveR said...

Both of my parents died in a hospital. My mom's ashes were spread by plane over the Big Horn Mountians of Wyoming, my dad's next to his parents overlooking the beautiful Mohawk Valley in New York. I'd much rather remember where they lived.

Of course there is something about those adhesive mailbox letters which is giving me second thoughts. Damn you Palladian.

Elliott A said...

Some states place official signs (metal on metal pole) to mark spot where an auto death occurred due to a DUI. I tend to think placement of a privately originated item on state or municipal property must be forbidden, or soon people will start placing other objects and yelp when they are removed. Shrines should always be on private property unless it is for a public figure, i.e. Dealy Plaza markers for JFK.

Jake said...

Kind of "white trashy" in my estimation.

Jeremy said...

AJ Lynch said..."Jeremy, the liberal, has no problem with roadside memorials. Hell, he is probably trying to figure out how to tax them."

I just don't spend much time wondering about roadside memorials and find the entire discussion ridiculous.

john said...

ricpic said...
If we're all moving a million miles a day why isn't it always windy
?

If that happened, it would only be windy for a couple of seconds, then we would all be dead, the earth having stripped itself of it's atmosphere.

Who would put up a marker for you?

john said...

Jeremy, as they say,

don't let the door hit you in the ass on you're way out.

john said...

er .. "your way out"

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Someday, projected hologram technology will get to the point where there will be ghostly dead people hovering all over the place.



I approve of this idea.

The only good thing about the roadside memorials is that it does make me think.....hmmmmm...maybe I'd better slow down here.

MadisonMan said...

Well, yes. And, no. Relative to what?

From the song: From Galatic Central Point :)

MadisonMan said...

make that: Galactic.

TitusNippyTucky said...

I just saw Raquel Welch in a sunglass commercial.

She has nice tits.

I would pork her.

Has everyone seen the new lost pictures of Barry Obama. Fabulous.

Revenant said...

Just because billions of other people have died doesn't mean YOU need to. If everyone else jumped off a bridge would you do it?

Big Mike said...

I think it would be hard on the parents of kids to have life-sized holograms of them after death. The friends of their kids will grow up, go to college, have kids of their own, while the deceased kids will always and forever be the age they were when they died.

Ralph said...

What is it with the stuffed animals? They're not Eqyptian.

My dad's best friend of 45 years disappeared in his plane over Alaska, a month after Dad's mother died. So my step-monster spends weeks in Colorado looking at houses for him to buy for her. A dozen years later, they sell that house, and my grandmother's house is now in her name.

Big Mike said...

@Original me, just noticed your riposte. You and Zachary should have slept through science class and the world would be better off.

TitusNippyTucky said...

My mom and dad are both living and very healthy. Thank you.

john said...

Ralph - are you trying to give everyone a headache?

AJ Lynch said...

For Ralph:

If a train leaves Cleveland at the speed of Labron James on a fast break...., what is the average number of words used in a comment on Ann's favorite blog?

AJ Lynch said...

I think it is now officially happy hour.

TitusNippyTucky said...

I think Althouse should have a contest on this website.

We all submit pictures of our hogs, she posts them and we try and pick which hog belongs to which commenter.

No erect hogs though, that would be perverted.

Jeremy said...

John - God knows I wouldn't want to miss any of this.

Roadside Memorials...GOOD OR BAD...people want to know!!!

How about roadside potholes!!

For them or against them??

Ralph said...

Sorry, just venting.
It is weird not knowing what happened to someone you knew and loved. I can empathize with the MIA families.

I try not to think about my step-mother, but last month I found out she owns the house next door, not my father as I thought. I left DC partly to get away from her.

ZPS's comment should be saved for later use against him.

Original Mike said...

Slept through science class, Big Mike? I teach science class! And the world is a far, far better place because of it.

Pogo said...

This small fad, this melodramatic hearts-on-our-sleeves mawkishness, exposes how widespread is our culture's infantilization.

Oprah's hideous offspring, the pathologico-therapeutic approach to life, demands that we become conspicuously afflicted by the passing of loved ones. And then we must have walks to Raise Awareness.

The once-admirable qualities of stoicism, self-deprecation, a sense of irony, and acceptance of the absurdity of life are now rejected for stuffed bears and hearts and scrawled names on paper, like 10,000 teenage girls weeping, or the pseudo-wailing professional mourners.

The idea that "life has to go on, so toughen up" gives way to the maudlin and sentimental. My young niece died in a horrible highway accident; it would be a dishonor to make such a display.

____________________
That said, if I die in a car crash, I want no memorial there, but instead place a pressure-activated speaker, hidden in the ground, which, when stepped upon, has me saying, "You stand on my grave. Now you are CURSED!! Ha ha ha haaaaaa!An ass, even in death.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TitusNippyTucky said...

And for the gals in the house they can submit beave shots and we can pick which cooch belongs to which lady.

TitusNippyTucky said...

And for the trannys and hermaphrodites in the house they can show full frontal pictures of their breasts and weiners.

I watched a hermaphrodite porn once. It was disgusting.

Ralph said...

Titus, my old office did that with feet. One guy painted his toenails. I suggested nipples for the next contest, which never happened.

Donna B. said...

I've been seeing these all my life (and I'm not young anymore) and to me they've always been reminders to drive more carefully. They are not a new trend.

All of the ones I've known details about were involved young people.

They don't bother me in the least, though I doubt I'd ever put one up.

Ralph said...

I mean a guess who's feet contest. Not sure hermaphrodites could work for the Pentagon then.

john said...

Pogo,

You don't think a simple, understated memorial has a somewhat cathartic effect for those in grief?

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Synova said...

These road-side memorials weren't done where I grew up in Minnesota, but they are common here in New Mexico.

And they don't last forever. They aren't kept up forever. They also aren't put up for every person that dies. I know there have been deaths on the road between here and town and there are no crosses. There is a memorial for a deputy who was shot across from the veterinarian. That's only been a couple of years, so it's still kept up and likely will be for quite some time.

People wouldn't do it if it didn't answer some profound need, and I think that need has something to do with having to pass by the spot where a loved one died. At first it must be impossible to pass by without being reminded of the horror of a violent and undoubtedly painful and terrifying death... but how much worse when time passes and a person isn't devastated by the reminder? A memorial cross with it's symbolic offerings, IMO, must soothe the soul, both when the grief and horror is stark and new, and when it begins to fade.

Uninvolved people don't like to think about the death of others any more than they like to be bothered with the noise and inconvenience of someone else's children. We'd all rather that the beginnings and endings of life happened somewhere out of sight and out of mind.

Too bad.

Besides which, the crosses and the symbolic offerings are public expressions of love and personal emotion. Why is that public display unseemly while forcing random bystanders to participate in the sexual foreplay of strangers is not?

Penny said...

Because those strangers go off to get a room. Right? Well don't they?

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Synova said...

"If so, what standards apply?"

See now... this is the difference between "Americana" and not.

If something would pass the standards of a community beautification committee, or Homeowners Association rules, or any sort of rule about having to please the aesthetics of someone other than yourself... then it's not Americana.

Thus the hand-painted bait sign, hay bale with legs sticking out, the mural of the old man in bib overalls with a flag, those gawd awful flamingos, the victorian down the street painted violet and mint green, all the kitch whimsy and odd flights of fancy that would never ever comply to some "standard"... those things are what we consider "Americana." In nature it's the robin's nest on the broken birch tree rather than a picture of something tidy and refined.

Marcia said...

Synova said, "People wouldn't do it if it didn't answer some profound need ..."

It must provide something, but I don't think that is an answer to a "profound need."

john said...

Hey Synova!

It's Friday, I got my beer. Wanna dance?

Dad said...

Synova, nice stuff.

A mile from me there is a plaque nailed on a telephone pole with a name and a date. Occassionally, there are a few flowers. "Tasteful" by the "standards". It reminds me of the horrific accident that took two lives UNEXPECTEDLY. It reminds me of the impact it had on the first responders, an impact that will last a lifetime. It reminds me of the impact on the family, one which they'll never "get over". It reminds me of the treacherousness of the intersection, and makes me more careful. It reminds me of the fragility of a life, and makes me more loving. It reminds me of a grief that I have never experienced, and hope not to.

It's not the same as unplugging a ventilator, something which I've done also, or the expected death of an aged parent. It's a remembrance for one who died tragically, unexpectedly, without a chance to say goodbye or "I'll miss you."

Allow these people their grief, for God's sake.

john said...

I like to think I'm the guy in the straw hat with no shirt on.

Ralph said...

If this is Ann's favorite blog, the average number of words/comment just went up.

I found some 19th ancestors' graves in the woods near Stem, NC. The graves had sunk a few inches below ground level, and the headstones and iron fence were all akimbo. Very creepy.

David said...

Dad said...
"Wow. Whadda buncha cranks."

The essence of blog commenting, Dad, the absolute essence.

Pogo said...

Sometimes I need a big cup of STFU.

Penny said...

Does anyone remember when crepes and floral cascades used to be placed on or next to the door of a family who just lost a loved one? It would usually be put there the day after the death and remain until the person was buried.

Michael McNeil said...

This is one of those exceedingly rare occasions when I completely agree with Jeremy.

And Original Mike is quite correct:

“The Sun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see, are moving at a million miles a day….” Well, yes. And, no. Relative to what?

As Einstein well noted, it's just as correct to presume that the Earth stands motionless at the center of the Cosmos as it is to imagine that it moves at all, with respect to any other point in that universe.

Synova said...

My parents live on a lake in Minnesota. A few years ago there were two drowning deaths. Quite by accident I've got pictures of both locations on my blog in the April 2006 archive. Both locations are at the extreme right middle edge of the photographs.

One is not far from my parent's dock. The picture is of the sunset. The man who died there was on a church camping trip with a youth group. No one is going to ask my parents to put a memorial on their property because no one who knew him is ever going to be in that place.

The other drowning was a young lady who drove off the road into the water when she was driving home. I believe there was ice. The picture is the one taken from a high hill and the road bisects the lake with water on both sides. Her parents MUST drive on this road any time they go to town.

I had the sunset set as background wallpaper on my computer when my parents told me about the man who had died. I didn't know him from anyone but I still had to replace it with something else because it was too unsettling to look at the water, at least for a while.

I can't even imagine driving past the spot where a child of mine drowned, trapped in a car, awake and aware. Every day. Twice a day, minimum.

They don't *do* tacky decorated crosses in that community, but I can't help but think that it's sad that they don't, because it probably would have helped the parents who could have had that symbolic thing to do so they wouldn't feel like they were trying to pretend or forget what had happened.

john said...

Michael, unfortunately not too long ago I learned that I could stifle a conversation by smugly noting that in the vast Cosmos of things, and in comparison to what I thought was important, the current discussion was rather maudlin. As the convesation migrated, I found I had the center of the room to myself. (Well, me and someone who could have been Jeremy.)

howzerdo said...

I remember you posted a couple of years ago about roadside memorials and my thoughts haven't changed, so I will share this again.

I am a trustee for a cemetery, and occasionally, particularly when a young person dies or when the death is accidental or a suicide, the family members erect (and maintain) elaborate memorials that neighboring plot owners consider tacky. Sometimes we field complaints from these folks. It may even violate one of our obscure rules. What is our response? Very simple...chill out. I feel the same way about roadside memorials. Yes, they may be tacky, and no, I probably wouldn't do it. And they do seem to be a growing phenomenon around here (maybe because more people than in the past are opting for cremation with little or no memorial service and no cemetery? Just speculating). If it helps the loved ones to deal with grief, why should they be restricted? Can't we be compassionate instead of judgmental when someone is hurting?

Every night I sleep on a brass and iron bed (not the mattress, of course) that belonged to an old couple I knew when I was a kid. They were both in failing health, and the man shot his wife and himself while they were in bed. Didn't bother me when I acquired the bed (at age 10), doesn't bother me now.

Big Mike said...

@Original me, you win. And thank you for teaching a class that, in my experience as a parent, is seldom taught very well anymore.

If you get a chance, go read to your kids Richard Feynman's 1974 commencement address to Cal Tech. It may open a few eyes as to what real science is. (Depending on the age of your students, some of it may have to be a bit expurgated.)

Crimso said...

Althouse, take a short cruise down I-71. You'll see a rather bland sign erected by the Commonwealth of KY near Carrollton. They erected the sign because of people erecting their own roadside memorials, and they wanted to put a stop to it. It reads: "SITE OF FATAL BUS CRASH MAY 14, 1988." Unless you know the story, you'd never realize that the "fatal bus crash" was caused by a drunk driver driving the wrong way on I-71. 27 people died (most of them teenagers), mainly due to a ruptured fuel tank. I remember watching the news late that Saturday night in Louisville, and right at the end of the broadcast they reported the breaking news of a bus crash near Carrollton and said they'd have more on tomorrow's newscast. Woke up the next morning to find the true scale of the "bus crash" in the newspaper. I believe it to be the worst drunk driving accident in U.S. history.

Ralph said...

I found I had the center of the room to myself.
With a headache, I hope. Nyatt!

john said...

Big Mike - continuing OT:

What do you teach? Do you read Feynman's talk, or assign it? Have any of your students really got how the cargo cult mythology is relevent today?

Meade said...

rh: Is the goatsbeard some kind of ghost? I don't see it. I do see red clover and sugar maple though.

Nice, but dog would improve pic, in my opinion.

AJ Lynch said...

I have been to funerals where many of the younger mourners wore t-shirts customized to memorialize the deceased.

In Philly, these memorials spring up on sidewalks near murder scenes. I know they began as car accident memorials but have since expanded.

Pogo - I rarely disagree with and don't this time. So don't TFU.

AJ Lynch said...

Typo:

Meant to write "Don't STFU".

Mary Christine said...

People used to go visit a cemetery and put flowers there. There would be church services to commemorate birthdays and anniversaries. Now there is a little piece of pilfered real estate on the highway with flowers, teddy bears, and crosses. I find it sad and hope that no matter where I die, no one will put crap there to remember me.

Big Mike said...

@john, in a word, no. I did some teaching in college, as a teaching assistant and as an instructor, but got a whiff of academic infighting and wanted no further part of it.

I really admire good teachers at the elementary and high school levels because I think I would wind up killing some modern parents and possibly some of their offspring. This would be bad for me (though worse for them).

As regards "cargo cult science," I keep wondering whether it ever really existed or whether it's apocryphal (though, as Jared Diamond notes, the people of Borneo refer to to modern technology as "cargo.") But "junk science" is certainly with us today. Feynman gives some of the criteria by which an educated person can spot it. I'd say more, but junk science will be another thread someday.

Sorin said...

Yes, death does stink. The house that I bought in 2000, smelled of death. The last to go was,John Hobbes,the last owner. He was very sick and died in the house. After the close of escrow, We removed the avocado colored curtains, ripped up the pink carpet, refinished the oak floors and refinished the avocado semi-gloss walls, removed the paneling and the popcorn ceiling.
The dead are dead. The only weird experience was the dog at dawn that woke up the cat , whose growl awakened me to see a dog in the the corner of the bedroom. I Only saw it once. I do not fear the dead. If I did I would not have purchased this house. The land was vacant in 1950 when the house was built. Excavations in the back yard have not revealed any human bones, only what appears to be the bones of a dog.
As for makers of the dead, a young girls body was found in a canyon near the neighborhood. Flowers, ballons,and note cards were placed along the space between the fence and the sidewalk. The chainlink fence was covered for at least 100 feet with memorials. This was a way for the people to comfort the living. Isn't this the way to comfort the living? A mother and daughter that you did not know but recognized in the neighborhood and you wanted to comfort her.
Live is but a fleeting moment, we should make the most of it.

Cedarford said...

bearbee said...
Should memorials mark the place where a person died.
No but if one is created make it degradable, maybe made out of birdseed, carrots or apple slices.
.

Great idea!
Then I thought of all the cute little deer (perhaps even the herd that caused the cross to be erected when one of the Bambis in the bunch hit the vehicle) - all getting wiped out by some semi as they gnawed on it.)
And it leaves out carnivore scavangers.
Perhaps two versions...a veggie cross and an alternate memorial one made out of pressed freeze-dried meat the bereaved family could put up to show the community how deep the loss was and that everyone should note the death happened...Right...There!
Bonus points if the relative's body is ground up and incorporated into the Meat Cross.
(Certain cultures did that. Left bodies for vultures, foxes, etc.)

=============
I'd also note that it is difficult to lecture people to end this intrusive, mawkish practice of roadside graves littering the land - when politicians are driven to seize land and erect multi-million dollar monuments at the scene of highly publicized mass deaths. To pander and seize the "Victimhood" high ground and show "they have empathy, and Care So Much"..
================
Howzerdoo - "If it helps the loved ones to deal with grief, why should they be restricted? Can't we be compassionate instead of judgmental when someone is hurting?".



My compassion ends, my judgement begins, when some "noble Victim's family" maintains their grief gives them the right to hijack chunks of the common public space to demand All Share in their Noble Suffering.

I also think that historical catastrophies or places of historically significant mass death (Gettysburg, D-Day beaches, Johnstown Flood, 9/11) do deserve
commemoration. But without the endless poltician and media one-upmanship that leads to a 100 million dollar memorial and bronze "empty chairs" for "all the brave victims". Or billion for 9/11 memorials or the 3 other billion spent on "victim family's compensation", running all the building rubble through forensic exam..for sacred bits of bone and the "shoes and office mementos of Closure and Healing.."
Nothing quite approaches the Sheer Excess of the Flight 93 National Monument. The National Monument to The Heroes -who knew they were facing death and tried fighting it (unlike the typical American coward who goes to cancer, a rapist murderer without a fight*sarcasm*) now approaches 2200 acres of land removed from productive use. With eminent domain battles to seize 100s of acres land from still-unwilling farmers.. For 40 aircrash victims.

50+ acres per victim, memorial and land permanently maintained by taxpayer - a monument just as much to the reckless, out-of-control spending and pandering of Bush and Congress? Sure out-does a tacky roadside cross.

By that standard, the victim families of dead soldiers in Iran-Afghanistan deserve 273 square miles of America permanently set aside in fertile land for their mourning, Ca-Lozh-Ure, and national "eternal remembrance" so far....
Vietnam "victims families" - 3,819 square miles of land removed from other uses.

Theo Boehm said...
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bagoh20 said...

What if you died on someone else's grave? I dunno, squirrel attack or lightning or something. This could create some friction.

bagoh20 said...

If I die right now, I want my memorial to be maintained on Althouse's desk in perpetuity. Or at least on this post. I'm not religious, so I suggest using an ampersand rather than a cross.

bagoh20 said...

Nope, still here. Not even feeling ill. Damn! I give up...or don't...whatever. Damn!

matthew said...

is that why Palladian appears to have the stench of death about him?


shit, i'm signed in with the last person's id... sorry matthew!

Christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher said...

"Like, omigod, did you see the way that those losers were grieving? So... tacky!"

"I know, right? Adhesive mailbox letters? Butterflies?""A stuffed rabbit? Soooooo lame!"

"Yeah! Lame-o! Totally!""And they soooo totally didn't pay attention in science class. Due to the earth's rotation and movement and stuff, they're not even commemorating where somebody ACTUALLY died."

"They're, like, so dumb and stupid and tacky!"

"But we're so smart and clever and awesome.""I know, right?"

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

I prefer to think that these roadside memorials are remembering a person's life in a public way.

A grave in a cemetary is a private grief, seen by dozens in a year, if you're lucky.

A roadside cross will be seen by dozens an hour in some spots.

We have a memorial a mile or so from home to a young girl who died when a semi ran a light and hit her family's car. I consider it a reminder to all of us that she lived, not that she died.

The location is a convienince, a specific spot that can be precisely located, and is somewhat less mawkish than the family placing the memorial in their yard. The family is constantly reminded that their daughter lived; they want you to be aware to, since she no longer can.

Ann Althouse said...

Theo Boehm said..."Wow. Whadda buncha cranks. But at least nothing about the Jews from that last crank."

Cedarford's comment was brilliant and spot-on.

Ann Althouse said...

And reread the Gettysburg Address. It is anti-monument and not about dwelling on the death. It's about taking the principle that people died for -- freedom -- and becoming more deeply dedicated to it for the future, for the living. The memorial is the principle that lives in our hearts and the real work that we do to preserve it.

By the same token, if your loved one died in a car crash, the response should not be to brood over the spot on the road where the terrible thing happened. (And it happened to me, I will add.) The response should be to remember the love you shared with that person and to rededicate yourself to loving the people in your life who have not left you yet and to protect them and cherish them.

M. Simon said...

Some one nailed a rabbit on a cross?

That is so sick.

L.N said...

In France, this practice is recent and poses a lot of problems. Have a look at my research on my blog: http://bornes-de-memoire.over-blog.com/

AllenS said...

Synova,

The state of Minnesota used to put up markers for highway deaths. They were metal outlines of faces on steel posts. I can't remember what the wording was on the outlines. This is the 1950- early 60's. I remember seeing quite a few of them on highway 36, from Roseville to highway 61. 36 was a narrow, hilly and twisting road back then. You can still see parts of the old road from the new 36.

dave_WI said...

They were metal outlines of faces on steel posts. I can't remember what the wording was on the outlines.Burma Shave?

Sorry.

kight said...

My memorial to my wife, who was the victim of vicious random violence, was to become involved in the victim's rights movement.

Now, it is simply trying to balance my anger with reason.

I have attended more than one memorial service or sites for victims of violent crime. I think it is like a shot of novacaine and good for immediate but temporary relief. A permanent memorial is permanent grief and like daily dose of oxycontin.

But when I have seen the memorials to my ancestors units at Antietam, I have to admit I feel a bit of pride.

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bissage said...

LOL. The once wonderful Bissage wins this thread.

I got demoted?

Damn!

Oh well . . . tan me hide when I’m dead, Fred.

bearbee said...

Oprah's hideous offspring, the pathologico-therapeutic approach to life, demands that we become conspicuously afflicted by the passing of loved ones. And then we must have walks to Raise Awareness..

Isn't this the way to comfort the living? A mother and daughter that you did not know but recognized in the neighborhood and you wanted to comfort her..


I've been wondering when the 'X' marks the spot phenomena started. And while I agree with Pogo's Ophraphication analysis, I also think that the inner emptiness caused by death of a loved one in earlier times would have been recognized and assuaged to a great degree by community - family, church, neighbors and well-wisher dropping by to comfort and to offer assistance in various ways, and that that disappearing sense of community is leaving the bereaved with grief, unexposed and unpurged.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Big Mike said...

A short way upthread Prof. Althouse wrote And reread the Gettysburg Address. It is anti-monument and not about dwelling on the death.

Yet if you've ever been to Gettysburg, it is practically wall to wall monuments. I think Synova is right -- there is something about our society that drives us towards commemorating deaths.

And I definitely want to second Cedarford's comments concerning the Flight 93 Memorial. The plans as depicted in a PowerPoint here certainly contrast unfavorably with the power and simplicity of Maya Lin's Vietnam War memorial. "Sacred Ground," "Bowl of Honor"? Puh-leeze.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael McNeil said...

And they soooo totally didn't pay attention in science class. Due to the earth's rotation and movement and stuff, they're not even commemorating where somebody ACTUALLY died.

As noted before, slightly more advanced science classes than most people get exposed to reveal that the Earth may be quite correctly regarded as being perfectly at rest, including having no rotation.

Thus, such spots do commemorate “where somebody ACTUALLY died.”

bearbee said...

Big Mike said...
Yet if you've ever been to Gettysburg, it is practically wall to wall monuments..

Gettysburg Photos

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael McNeil said...

The state of Minnesota used to put up markers for highway deaths. They were metal outlines of faces on steel posts. I can't remember what the wording was on the outlines. This is the 1950 – early 60's.

I'm from Montana, and all my life I've driven by the roadside crosses that the state erects where fatal accidents have occurred (except on Interstates; I believe there are federal restrictions on what states can place there) — and I've never been offended while passing them by. I'm with others here who think people's hypersensitivity to such memorials (even or perhaps especially those decorated by kith and kin) is pretty lame.

Cedarford said...

On the subject of mourning excess, often inflicted on others (A non-option: "If you don't like looking at roadside memorials to utter strangers, just look away or close your eyes for a minute or so while driving past one!") let's also go with "flag at half staff excess".

I feel the US Flag should fly free and fully raised most of the time. But more and more special interest groups want it lowered for "favored deaths". Or diminished with their own "special interest flag" fying alongside.

Does it really need to be lowered to properly honor a "hero" for 1 to 3 weeks? We had our large state flying flags at half staff two and a half weeks for what turned out to be a rear echelon suicide case that happened in Kuwait.
In Illinois, 5 days for a "better than other citizens hero-cop" who had a "line-of-duty death" caused by driving into a tree 200 yards from his home while headed home from work.

Canada unwisely passed a law that each dead soldier deserved two weeks of their flag at half-staff - Nationwide. Involved in the early stages in Afghanistan, a few Canadian losses meant a month and a half at half-staff. And someone pointed out that if two weeks was the standard, then the Canadian flag would have been lowered in 1939 and left there until 2108.

And why exactly do we "need" a rainbow pride flag flying? Breast Cancer Flag? Or "Black History Awareness Month" flag flying from state offices at designated times?

Or the infamous POW/MIA Black Flag? We have no POWs abroad. And we have MIAs going back to the Revolutionary War.

Bissage said...

Please don’t be cross, Theo.

Some of us are nice.

Some of us are jerks.

All of us are human.

That makes us all small, weak and terrified, although some of us are so obsessed with winning over others that we won’t admit it; not even to ourselves.

The subject of this Althouse post is how we grieve the death of someone we love.

It is also about how we might say, “I love you” while we’re still alive

This video always makes me cry.

Michael McNeil said...

By the same token, if your loved one died in a car crash, the response should not be to brood over the spot on the road where the terrible thing happened. (And it happened to me, I will add.) The response should be to remember the love you shared with that person and to rededicate yourself to loving the people in your life who have not left you yet and to protect them and cherish them.

Why should anybody pay any attention to what you say is how they “should” feel and do things? And who says (can authoritatively say) that it's “brooding”?

I'm not one who would create such a memorial myself, but I certainly think others have a right to feel differently than me, without my criticizing their feelings and manner as incorrect not to speak of “brooding.”

DADvocate said...

Sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s when I was a kid plain white crosses were placed where ever someone had been killed in an accident along Hwy 411 between Knoxville and Chattanooga. At that time 411 was considered one of the most dangerous highways in the country.

I was under the impression at the time that this was a government funded project to promote highway safety. As a kid, it really freaked me out. Every time we drove that highway I worried about dieing.

That said, if someone wants to place a small memorial, I don't care. I wouldn't want to do it if someone in my family died in an accident. I wouldn't want a visual reminder of what happened each time I went past that spot.

I wonder why Anderson Ferry still operates. It's a very slow way to get across the river and there are bridges across the river less than 10 miles in either direction.

Once, after eating lunch in northern Kentucky, we decided to take Anderson Ferry back to work just for the hell of it. A 15 minute trip turned into more than an hour although the distance traveled was no more than 5 miles longer.

k*thy said...

The first place I encountered these was while traveling out in Montana. I had to ask what they were.

I actually appreciate them - for someone to take the time to remember someone's passing is touching - and a good reminder to be a little more careful out on the road.

dbp said...

I'm not sure which is worse--each is unhealthy in its own way.

Now, we have the kind of weepy mawkishness that makes us look like a country of wimps.

Back when I was in college a suicide bomber killed 241 American troops (mostly Marines). There was no flag at half mast for any length of time beyond the time it spent on the way up or down. I may have been sensitive to this issue, being a young Marine reservist at the time. I was shocked by the complete lack of even acknowledgment that something very bad had happened.

Ralph said...

The Beirut bombing got lost in the Grenada invasion. We all know now which was more important, but it's surprising the media didn't hammer Reagan over the bombing like they did the later Beirut hostages, which led to Iran/Contra. Everything I've read, the bombing changed the USMC profoundly, and for the better.

Corky Boyd said...

Memorials should be where someone is laid to rest, not where they died. If not the lawn in front of every hospital would would be covered with markers.

Donna B. said...

I'm amazed at the number of comments this subject has generated!

kentuckyliz said...

Why is is that only Christians die in traffic accidents? (You never see a star of david or a crescent in those memorials.)

Would you put up a memorial on a straight flat road? It highlights how much of an idiot the person was. "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!"

I am pro life. I think instead we should put up memorials where we were conceived--a far greater thing than where we died. In my case, likely a hotel room in Cape Cod.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4YuCIRe8pY

Seriously those roadside memorials are hazardous because they are a distraction and it is dangerous for people to stop on the highway or interstate to erect and maintain one. People have been injured and killed putting up roadside memorials.

And it's always crosses so it's discriminating against religious minorities and secularists.

George said...

I'm trying to imagine how petulant and petty someone has to be to complain that someone has placed a memorial to a loved one on the side of the road at the site of a tragic crash. If that small gesture helps someone cope with that death, then let them do it.

Christopher said...

George wrote:

"I'm trying to imagine how petulant and petty someone has to be to complain that someone has placed a memorial to a loved one on the side of the road at the site of a tragic crash."

Thanks to Ann's blog and her commentators, you don't need to try to imagine such depths of pettiness and petulance, you can see it on display 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Scroll up a little to Ann's earlier comment, this one, and see where she lets us all know that there's a 'right' way to grieve, and that those who do things differently than she might are 'brooding' and doing it all wrong. (It worked for her, after all, so it'll obviously work for everybody else.)

There are unhealthy or dangerous mindsets that people fall into as a result of grief. Recognizing them and helping mourners to work through their grief is something that's direct, personal, and intimate. There's no one "right" way to grieve -- it's where grieving takes us that's more important.

I'd like to imagine that Ann's comment indicates that she cares about where that grief may take people, but I'm afraid that imagining *that* gives her far too much credit. Judging from the tone of her post and her reactions to those who (rightly) called her and her commentators on their petulance, she's really interested in criticizing and making frun of something that she personally finds tacky. I suspect that she claimed to be concerned that these homemade memorials represented a 'brooding' and unhealthy approach to grief not because she actually has that concern, but because the alternative --that she and her commentators are snickering and teasing people for the way that they grieve-- is fairly ugly. And Ann, just like the rest of us, doesn't want to see herself as an ugly person.

If the immediacy and intimacy of constructing a memorial by hand helps a person to work through their grief, I am all for it. Even if Palladian finds adhesive mailbox decals and stuffed rabbits to be tawdry. Even if, as another commentator said upthread, it smacks of 'white trash'.

If placing that memorial at the site where a loved one died helps a person to deal with their loss, I am all for it; even if it is technically, as someone said upthread, an 'arrogation of public land'.

I'm totally with Dad, Theo, Michael McNeil, and you on this one. Dad put it best when he wrote, "Allow these people their grief, for God's sake."

Meade said...

Longwinded roadside grief spam.

Christopher said...

Meade wrote:"Longwinded roadside grief spam."

I don't think so. I mean, if you're anything like me, you probably don't respond to "spam".

But you did respond to this.

More likely, in pointing out that Ann's shallowness and pettiness were on full display, was right on target. You couldn't really take issue with what I wrote -- I was right, after all. So you came up short, but you were still angry enough at the truth that you felt the need to take a shot. In this case, a cheap shot based on the length of my response.

That was silly, though. As a guess, my response was probably about 2/3 of a printed page. Maybe a little more. If that seems long-winded to you, then you must have a heck of a time sitting through, say, your average commercial. You might want to work on building up your concentration to increase your attention span and counteract that.

Ann Althouse said...

It's not the length, it's the interestingness.

Silverstar said...

From someone who has had to go to a home and tell a mother, father, son or daughter that a loved one will not be coming home, I find Christopher spot on: “If the immediacy and intimacy of constructing a memorial by hand helps a person to work through their grief, I am all for it.”

tariely said...

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