May 3, 2010

"This is where Kaitlyn is. This is where we feel her and this is where we visit her."

The touchy problem of roadside memorials. I've written about this a number of times. This is a really awful-looking one.

48 comments:

ironrailsironweights said...

That one's nothing. Some of the memorials around where I live, 25 miles east of Farmingdale, are far more elaborate: teddy bears, candles, large portraits, you name it. A few of them have been maintained for almost a decade.

Peter

SteveR said...

Gee what if did something like that in hospitals? Seems mostly for youger victims but if that's really "where we feel her" and "visit her" then nothing but the spot should be needed.

Cedarford said...

I've written too. They are basically emotional vampire porn. Demanding others share in their private grief, intruding into the public space. "Our grief isn't adequate...share in our bad feelings on the loss of a loved one."

Treat them like litter and unsightly dumped garbage and clean the trash up.

More difficult to deal with are those who demand public "respect" and stop in their tracks to "honor" whomever the idiot on the PA system or blathering person at a meeting demands via emotional blackmail "be respected and remembered".

I mean, what are you supposed to do at halftime at a college football game when you are busy escorting kids to the restroom and all of a sudden the PA system blares out that today is the 34th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's death and says all in the stadium should stop and silently reflect for a minute on "this hero to us all".
And when that us done, take ten steps and "And today also marks the 3rd anniversary of the death of our schools beloved 22 year long director of athletics so please stand and observe one minute of silence for R. Sedgeborn...."

And what if you don't? Does that mean you hated Jackie Robinson or R. Sedgeborn? Disrespect them and others if you keep on moving?

Palladian said...

So Kaitlyn is at the base of a lamp post, forever? That's rather depressing.

I always wonder: why don't these people visit the corpse and leave their tributes there instead?

And when did it become the fashion to offer cheap plush animals to the dead? Aren't flowers good enough? At least flowers decay quickly and gracefully... a polyester stuffed rabbit doll sits around for ages, drooping, becoming soggy and sullen, a chintzy memento mori for people with the emotional development of 6-year-olds.

Kaitlyn isn't lashed to that lamppost for eternity, dears. She's dead. If you are a religious sort, why not think about the death in a theologically more substantial way? And if you want to erect a memorial to her, do it on your own property. You know, like in one of those new-fangled places called a cemetery.

Hazy Dave said...

Is the problem the fact that funerals and cemetery plots and the whole formerly religious ritual of sending off one's loved ones and creating a place to remember them has become so fucking expensive? Yet, there are still only 83 Google hits on the word "tardshrine" (number five being a comment on the blog called Althouse). Was that term coined in the wake of Lady Di? Might take some research. Pretty tasteless and politically incorrect, in any event. (At least I'm not acknowledging the theoretical possibility that the people who set them up could be genetically inferior in any characteristic on basis of their presumed genotype.)

veni vidi vici said...

Good Gaddafi, tear that shite off the lampposts/freeway medians and take your ass to the headstone once in awhile. If you want to wallow in your self-indulgence ("taking that away from us"??? Really? At a public, urban intersection? Who *are* these morons?), at least spare us your miserable company and go somewhere that it's at least within the bounds of decorum. Like a cemetary, your living room, whatever.

Notwithstanding all the still-considerable evidence of manly virtues and all that stuff in and about America, this strain of whining swinery shows what a hefty quantum of sodden sacks of quivering shit there are among the population.

Where will all those quavering masses of beef-curtains be when a large-scale catastrophe strikes, heaven forbid? Diddling themselves into oblivion, no doubt.

Synova said...

16 months probably is long enough, particularly if it begins to be something that family and friends can't give up without feeling guilt over. 24 months would probably be better if someone is going to pass an ordinance limiting it.

I do support the roadside memorials particularly in cases where loved ones have to pass the spot regularly. I mean, I had a beautiful photo of the sunset and lake from my parent's property that I was using as a background on my computer and had to stop using it because I learned that a total stranger had drowned at that spot. I couldn't look at the picture for a while without imagining what had happened in detail. What is it like for someone who loses someone they love?

So you have to pass by and it's better to have some sort of ritualistic observance.

I disagree with Cedarford very much... I think that we demand that others do not disturb us in our sanitized lives so that we can go on ignoring everything unpleasant... life, death, annoying children, the handicapped or deformed... well, tough. Too bad. None of us have some sort of right not to have to see that we live among people.

No roadside memorial demands that I share someone elses private grief anyway, and I don't believe for a moment that Cedarford or anyone else is forced into any sort of emotional response whatsoever when they see one. How stupid is it to even say that. It's actually easier to drive by a pile of trinkets without feeling that one is required to participate than some of the other things that Cedarford mentioned. The neverending public tributes that interrupt life like that make me nuts. Sometimes you want to go shake the heck out of someone and shout in their faces to just get over it already.

It's not at all that I'm overly sensitive. I'm really not.

But maybe that's the problem. Maybe some people are upset when they are reminded that humans die.

I tend to think that the upset ones are probably those that need reminding the most.

Palladian said...

Sorry, Synova. A pile of dirty, soggy teddy bears and plastic flowers and broken pine crosses is unacceptable on public property. As I said above, do it on your own property and spare us the eyesore. Just because you feel the need to fetishize a death site doesn't trump my right to clean, well-maintained public property free of filthy, ugly junk.

Several of my beloved have died in hospitals, yet I don't expect to be able to pile up a bunch of nasty crap and Yankee candles in various rooms and operating tables just because they happened to depart there.

This mawkish and theologically unsound practice needs to be stamped out. It's already completely out of control.

And if you want to take things to their absurd conclusion, the exact spot where Kaitlyn died is actually out in space given the orbit and rotation of the planet. Maybe we should deploy spacecraft full of dirty plush toys and pom-poms and inkjet prints and burnt-out dimestore candles, just to make sure the tribute resides at the exact spot where her life was randomly ended.

The departed live in our memories and, if you're the religious sort, in the kingdom of Heaven, not at the spot where they happened to die.

joewxman said...

Hey Ironrails..im not that far from you in Ronkonkoma!!! This is so cool. I have a few roadside eyesores at exit 61 where a famous fake homeless begger who harassed people for years took a bad fall at the intersection of patchogue holbrook and the lie south service road!

Synova said...

"Several of my beloved have died in hospitals, yet I don't expect to be able to pile up a bunch of nasty crap and Yankee candles in various rooms and operating tables just because they happened to depart there."

When one of your beloved dies in horror and violence at a place you have to pass by on a regular basis, come back and talk to me.

And don't pretend you're unable to figure out the difference.

former law student said...

When did NYC clear all the teaddy bears away from Ground Zero?

kimsch said...

By placing all this "stuff" where someone died, these people are hanging on to the death, not celebrating the life that was. If one feels the need to buy teddy bears, by all means donate them to the police to give to children who are affected by tragedy (fire or burglary), domestic violence, or other stressful situations, or donate to a hospital children's ward for kids who don't have visitors.

Celebrate the life of your lost loved one. Make donations to charities in his or her name. There's no need to clutter up public places (or right-of-ways in front of homes and businesses) with junk.

There was one of these near my house, out by the road, in front of the fence marking someone's private property, but it was that property owner's responsibility to clean it up after rain ruined the "display". Then the 'memorial' would be redone until the next bout of inclement weather.

What a waste.

wv:mamouse - not a pamouse or a babymouse...

Hoosier Daddy said...

I always wonder: why don't these people visit the corpse and leave their tributes there instead?

What a novel concept! I never quite understood the whole roadside memorial thing myself.

LarsPorsena said...

I've been noticing a lot of 'memorials' stenciled on car rear windows lately. As in ......Name of Deceased, DOB, DOD, and then something like..."in loving memory of a great __________(fill in the blank) The mobile version of the subject of the post.

Pogo said...

Our forefathers were made of sturdier stuff.

In 1900 in some U.S. cities, up to 30% of infants died before reaching their first birthday.

The risk of women dying in childbirth in the 1920s and early 1930s was still as high as it had been after Queen Victoria came to the throne in the 1850s, over 4 deaths/1000 births.

In Allegheny County, PA, from July 1906 through June 1907, 526 workers died in work accidents (195 of these were steelworkers). In contrast, in 1997, 17 steelworker fatalities occurred nationwide. During 1911-1915, an average of 3329 mining-related deaths occurred per year, an average annual fatality rate of 329 per 100,000 miners. The rate was 25 per 100,000 during 1996-1997.

People back then were more stoic; a trait that permits one to pass the site of death of a loved one every day.

rocketeer67 said...

When one of your beloved dies in horror and violence at a place you have to pass by on a regular basis, come back and talk to me.

So accentuating the location - emphasizing and drawing attention to it - makes it easier to pass by? This makes no sense, Synova. I'm sorry, but that is an argument against, not for, these "memorials."

mrs whatsit said...

Sixteen months probably IS long enough, especially for what looks, in the picture, like a busy, crowded site and an unusually messy memorial. The time does come to take them down. But there's a disproportionate intensity in the contempt being directed here at what are, after all, grieving, heartbroken people. What's the offense, anyway? Tastelessness? Liking plush bears and plastic flowers too much? Being from a less discreet class of grievers than their tonier critics, who'd know enough to fund a nice quiet scholarship instead? Synova's got it right: what's really offensive about roadside memorials is the sting of being reminded that people die.

rocketeer67 said...

Synova's got it right: what's really offensive about roadside memorials is the sting of being reminded that people die.

mrs whatsit, Synova is, apparently, defending roadside memorials on those grounds.

I know, it makes no sense to me either, but there you have it.

Pogo said...

The perpetual memorials are the stuff of teenage girls; the teddy bears being a clue.

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."
Epictetus

Pogo said...

"...what's really offensive about roadside memorials is the sting of being reminded that people die."

Are there people so unaware that they too will shake loose this mortal coil that our task is to remind them of it with wet stuffed animals and drooping flowers?

Wouldn't a public education billboard better serve the purpose?
Remember: Soon enough you'll be dead.
This message brought to you by the IRS.

MadisonMan said...

Those memorials tether the deceased's spirit to Earth; they can't move on to their next destination as long as the cr*p is there. Even though they want to move on. Selfish, really, of the friends to put their needs and wants over those of the departed.

Or maybe not.

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

I live in an area of curvy roads and hills. There are quite a few memorials around these parts. Last Thursday I went north of my place, and within 5 miles there were 3 such memorials. Just now, I thought, what if someone died in a car crash in front of my house? If a memorial was put up in the ditch (which I mow) in front of the house, how long would I let remain? When I decided enough was enough, I can imagine the rath of hatred toward me that would happen when I decided to remove it. And remove it I would. How about a one week time limit?

Pogo said...

I'd favor simple markers, like a little heart, for where you got your first kiss instead.

OTOH, it would be disturbing to see them placed in a confessional, a funeral home, or the trunk of a car.

Original Mike said...

"This is where Kaitlyn is"

No. I'm sorry (really), but it's not. For your own good you need to separate your memories of your friend from the place she died.

David said...

Perhaps the government could pay for a bronze plaque and an eternal flame at every death site. It would be so tasteful that way.

Shanna said...

Couldn't the city have just asked them to tone down the memorial? There is a spot where a friend from high school's little brother died, adn sometimes I see a wreath on a pole there. It's tasteful and not over the top but I know what it's about. If that makes them feel better, it isn't really hurting anyone.

Dad said...

When you guys get done with roadside memorials, you should take on the tasteless "we miss you and think of you every day" ads in the Weekly Shopper.

Some people just have no class.

jrberg3 said...

what's really offensive about roadside memorials is the sting of being reminded that people die.

No, what's offensive is the idea that these grieving people have a right to commandeer a public street corner and/or light pole for a rather gaudy display.

Let's face it, people die all the time. One only need to watch the evening news to be reminded of this fact. There is no sting to these roadside memorials.

Shanna said...

So accentuating the location - emphasizing and drawing attention to it - makes it easier to pass by?

I think when it’s a car wreck it may be harder for the families to pass by (I would be probably be inclined to avoid a road where a loved one had died), but knowing someone died on that spot might actually serve the public good by reminding people to SLOW down and watch the road, and that cars are not just big toys.

AllenS said...

On the other hand, Shanna, memorials could distract drivers at a dangerous part of the road.

Case in point: the intersection of County Road T and Highway 64 east of New Richmond, WI. A place where no amount of memorials have reduced traffic accident deaths.

Original Mike said...

Remember: Soon enough you'll be dead.
This message brought to you by the IRS.


:-)

Original Mike said...

@Palladain: "And when did it become the fashion to offer cheap plush animals to the dead? Aren't flowers good enough? At least flowers decay quickly and gracefully"

There's the compromise. Mementos must be organic, like real flowers. They're appropriate, can be appreciated by others on a different level, and the frequency at which they need to be replenished will eventually wear out the tenders. Pass the ordinance in the name of being "green".

paul a'barge said...

I live in Texas. Mexicans love doing this kind of stuff. Especially on long country roads.

Kirstin said...

I'm seeing a lot of vehicle window memorials on the road in California. The roadside memorials usually honor teens. Where do blue carnations come from?

mrs whatsit said...

Rocketeer: you misunderstood my comment. I'm defending the mourners who create roadside memorials, just as Synova was. While the memorials may not make sense to you, what doesn't make sense to me is the distaste, with its powerful overtones of snobbery, being directed at those who find themselves unable to comply with the contemporary mandate to treat death, loss, and grieving as guilty secrets to be hidden at all costs, and who have the nerve to be tacky about the way they're mourning.

Pogo, people may have been more stoic about their grief in the days when untimely death was more commonplace, but they certainly didn't keep it secret. They wrote reams of poetry for publication about their grief, they dressed in black for a full year, they made mourning jewelry out of their loved ones' hair and wore it for the rest of their lives. (Now THAT'S creepy.) Back then, instead of looking down on those who made their grief public, society criticized those who didn't -- see the scene in "Gone With the Wind" in which onlookers gasp and palpitate while Scarlett O'Hara defiantly dances with Rhett Butler in her widow's weeds as an example.

One of the things that hurts most when you lose someone is the way the rest of the world goes on, unchanged, as if nothing had happened, as if everything hadn't changed irreversibly and forevermore. It's a deep-seated human need to fight back against that universal uncaring. As I drove to work this morning, a half hour trip on quiet country roads that are apparently considerably more dangerous than they appear, I passed two car-crash roadside memorials (both considerably more low-key and tasteful than the one under attack here) one airplane-crash roadside memorial (when he couldn't make it to the airport, the private pilot tried, but failed, to land on the highway) two anti-drunk-driving billboards (photo of lovely gap-toothed child, captioned "A Drunk Driver Murdered Our Child") and one big sign, hand-painted by a bereft grandfather and mounted on his own property, warning: "A Drunk Driver Could Kill Someone You Love." Yes, it's sobering to be reminded that death lurks around every corner, even on a routine commute through the blooming springtime countryside. But they're only human beings. They're only heartbroken. Couldn't those of us lucky enough not to be feeling what they are give them a break?

jrberg3 said...

those who find themselves unable to comply with the contemporary mandate to treat death, loss, and grieving as guilty secrets to be hidden at all costs,

They most definitely don't need to be hidden, but again, but by no means does that imply the right to display their emotions for all to see. These people are given the latitude to create memorials because of their emotional state. I mean who's going to be the one to go out and remove flowers and such a few days after a horrific accident. But there comes a time where people need to move on.

I know it must be rough for the folks who lost a loved one, but that tragedy does not give them the right to claim that spot for eternity to do with it whatever it is that helps you feel better.

As a side-note, its amazing to me that those effected would choose to remember her at the spot where she died and not some other area more important to her while she was alive.

It's a deep-seated human need to fight back against that universal uncaring.

Oh come one, so in your world there should be memorials everywhere to eliminate this awful uncaring? Accidents happen, people die (some way before they should), but life goes on. That's reality and soon enough even memorials fade away.

Dad said...

Yeah, they should buck up.

What the hell's the matter with them anyway? It's not like their child was killed in a car crash or something.

Jeez. Some people need to get a life.

djmtwo said...

I wonder if anyone has ever been killed tending to a roadside memorial.

Dad said...

Now that'd show 'em what's right.

jgm said...

Roadside memorial to a mutt.

mrs whatsit said...

jrberg, I don't know where you got the idea that I think roadside memorials should be left up forever. Maybe you didn't read this line in my first comment: "The time does come to take them down."

I'm not arguing that they should stay up forever -- I'm impressed that the one in question, which looks as if it's literally in the way, was left in place as long as it was. What I'm reacting to is the fervor and intensity with which some commenters here are arguing that such memorials should never be put up at all (come on, "emotional vampire porn"? Just a little bit over-sensitive, are we, maybe?) It's pretty obvious that those commenters, at least, are reacting to something other than the offense against proper bourgeois tastefulness represented by a few soggy stuffed animals and faded plastic flowers tied to a telephone pole.

FormerTucsonan said...

I saw a case where one definately needed to be removed. A high school kid lost control of his father's sports car in a curve (speed related)and hit the inner guard rail. He was killed along with 3 other teenagers. Not long after, a massive roadside memorial showed up. So did a lot of other teenagers who stopped to pay tribute and parked their cars on the inner shoulder, got out, and stood around. This was in a strecth of road that was 6 lanes wide with a 70MPH speed limit.

The local paper interviewed some of mourners, most of them didn't know the victims, but.. you know.. they *like* died, Dude...

Taste considerations aside, most of these memorials tend to be in places that already have a reputation for being dangerous. I can sympathize with those who have lost a friend or loved one, but don't put my life in danger because you can't let go.

jrberg3 said...

Maybe you didn't read this line in my first comment: "The time does come to take them down."

OK, duly noted. However, most of my response to your comments still holds.

One question, how long should these things stay up? And who gets to be the arbiter of that time frame? No matter what you feel is an appropriate duration, there will be others who disagree.

mrs whatsit said...

If somebody put one up in front of my house, I'd appoint myself the arbiter of how long it should stay up. If it's somewhere dangerous, like the one FormerTucsonian described, I'd leave it to the police. Otherwise, if it's not on somebody's property who objects to it, and it's not otherwise hurting anyone or causing a problem, I'd leave it up to those who put it there.

former law student said...

Add your own cross to the memorial, and watch it come down straightaway, lest it be seen as government endorsement of religion.

Synova said...

Me: When one of your beloved dies in horror and violence at a place you have to pass by on a regular basis, come back and talk to me.

"So accentuating the location - emphasizing and drawing attention to it - makes it easier to pass by? This makes no sense, Synova. I'm sorry, but that is an argument against, not for, these "memorials.""

No, it's not. There's guilt involved in trying not to think of someone you loved who died terribly. I'm sure that for some (if not most) it would feel like a refutation of that person to try not to think of them when reminded by passing by the spot they died. I'm sure there is a happy medium between rejecting the dead person and wallowing in it all, but I don't feel qualified to decide what that is for other people.

I don't think these things should go on forever, but the part of grieving they represent is real or no one would do it.

(I don't think I'd ever put one up, but then I'm Norwegian and we tend to be undemonstrative.)

Joan said...

Synova, way up thread: I don't believe for a moment that Cedarford or anyone else is forced into any sort of emotional response whatsoever when they see one.

Why? You admit you yourself had to change your photo when you found out someone had drowned in the lake it showed. You had an emotional response. Or are you just saying that response was "unforced"? I don't get it.

I drive past one of these memorials every day picking up my kids from school. It's morbid, garish. Last week there was a teenage girl sitting cross-legged in front of all the junk, just sitting. It's very sad, but the place for this sort of remembrance is not a busy roadside -- and I'm sure the guys who own the commercial nursery on the other side of the fence would like it gone, too, so they could take down all the stuff that's festooned all over their chain link.