Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Memorial


Last month a young man was shot to death right here on the sidewalk in front of the grocery store where I shop. He was young and the alleged shooter was the father of his estranged girlfriend. There was, apparently, a custody battle going on between the victim and the shooter's daughter over their 3-year-old son. Horrible. Stupid. Tragic.

This evening, as I once again skirted around this growing assemblage of wilting flowers and cheap candles, I wondered why this kind of thing has become the accepted form of mourning a public death. Does this really comfort anyone? I really do wonder. My neighbor works at this store and I can't help but think that this display is a constant reminder to her and her coworkers of a horrible and frightening afternoon. I see most shoppers avoiding it as best they can as they manipulate shopping carts from the nearby supply near the front door. The Girl Scouts are selling cookies from their card table setup a few yards away.The adjacent soda machine isn't attracting much business.

I don't doubt that those who left these flowers and trinkets, including a ceramic angel,were sincere in their desire to remember a friend or neighbor, but I find it hard to imagine how this helps. There is something especially sad, to me, about the the dirty, stained sidewalk, the forlorn flowers and the triteness of the effort.

If I am ever gunned down in front of the grocery store, please don't do this for me. Instead, send a donation to the Food Bank, send a note to my family and hug somebody you love.


14 comments:

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I'm not sure if this is the case in the States but here in Australia when people are killed in car accidents the site of their death becomes a shrine much like the one in front of your grocery store. Don't people visit cemetaries anymore? After all that is what they're for - pay your respects there I say.

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  2. I THINK it was Ogden Nash with a poem similar to your sentiments. I remember the last lines: "flowers cheer the living dear, they're no good for the dead.". I think leaving such things makes the "leaver" feel better. I agree they can turn ugly and sad very quickly!

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  3. My guess is that it is young friends of the murdered person who are leaving these tokens, and that it comforts them to see the material representation of their friendship. I say this as a mother of a teenaged son who died in a car accident. His friends mourned in ways I would never consider for myself.

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  4. Interesting. I've never thought of this phenomenon before. I agree. I applaud donations to food banks and animal rescue. My usual default method of showing love. Thanks Terry for sharing your thoughts.

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  5. Well said. I've never understood putting flowers and stuffed animals in a public place to mourn a death and I totally agree with you.

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  6. Terry, I agree. I know it is hard to know what to do in times of loss, but the simplest is the most effective..a prayer, a hug, or maybe just an effort of kindness toward a person who seems to be undeserving of it. Those are the legacies I want for me. Not flowers or candles.

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  7. Carol7:05 AM

    Maybe it all has to do with community and connectedness ... we all uniquely hunger for it and reach out as best we can.

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  8. I agree with you Terry, I am also uncomfortable with the memorials on the back window of cars. It seems disrespectful to me. I've told my kids I will haunt them forever if they do that with me.

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  9. There was a display like this a few streets over from my house. I found myself wondering how long it would stay. Who would be/could be the one to decide that it is time for it to be removed? Would that be perceived as disrespectful, even though many likely feel it is time? So hard to have to walk around it to enter your grocery store.

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  10. Of late, I have wondered the same thing about these memorials. I completely agree with you on this.

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  11. Oddly my daughter did her senior project at UCLA (10 yrs ago) on this new custom. Having lost her best friend in an auto accident in high school she was amazed at the huge memorial set up in her memory. In that instance it became more about those who grieved rather than the sweet young woman who died too soon. Soon the memorial became a traffic hazard and had to be removed. In short, I agree with you.

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  12. Around here there are many traffic deaths due to mountain driving conditions and frequent poor judgement and makeshift memorials litter the roadways. I use the term litter advisedly. I do consider these to be sad and ugly reminders of someone's love one lost. It seems to be calling attention to the living rather than the dead - saying,"look at how sad I am." I don't know what to make of it.

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  13. I know it wouldn't comfort me to leave flowers or candles on the side of a road or in front of a grocery store. I'd rather communicate with the dead privately at a cemetery, a favorite place where ashes have been strewn, or at home with a photo. But that's just me, and a lot of people prefer to have their intentions seen more publicly. I also don't get memorials on cars as I think it demeans the dead to attach their memories to a disposable vehicle, but maybe it helps keep the memory closer to the bereaved and Americans really love their cars. We also like to draw attention to ourselves and I think these public displays are a bit of that. I wouldn't want to presume to know what someone else needs to do to heal though.

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  14. I totally agree with you. I don't like the reminders all the time you walk into a store, etc. I don't remember growing up having all these crazy people shooting for stupid reasons. Now a person is dead and the shooter is in jail for the rest of his life. What good does that do for his daughter and her child? Guess I am just getting old and don't understand the reasoning.

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