Recently CBC had their panel of people talking about roadside memorials and what was the decent length of time to keep one up. Just to be clear, there are the spots of fatal traffic accidents, where people then put up pictures, flowers and other mementos of the people killed. Sometimes there are more permanent fixtures that go up, as well as planted flowers, trees or bushes.
What is the proper length of time? Should the crosses, plastic flowers and faded photos be removed at a specific time? When I come home I always drive by one that had four people’s pictures on one side and at least three on the other side. It told me it had been two cars involved and two groups of people. One of the memorials seems to have disappeared while the other is still there. It’s been over a year.
If anything, these memorials serve as a reminder to drivers to slow down, be cautions, don’t cut people off. When stopped at the light, a person can look over and see something of the person whose life was lost. Eventually, when the loved ones move on, the memorial will disappear. Some will last longer than others. I can see how city road crews might have problems with these memorials. Should they take them down? Isn’t this infringing on someone’s grieving process? Yet, if the memorials are in the way of cutting weeds and maintaining roadsides, then how can the workers do their jobs?
The CBC panel suggested that people should remove them within a year. I have envisioned a world where every telephone pole and light standard was taken over as a memorial (eliminating the postering of them now) and painted in indvidual ways. Perhaps the city could make money by renting/selling a light standard as a memorial site for someone. This is somewhat like a plaque on a park bench.
I personally have no problem driving by a memorial and seeing it for a s long as the grievers see fit to maintain it. It was one of the aspects of Ireland that showed me best the culture and families: the gravesides were carefully maintained in family outings. A memorial, even if it isn’t in a cemetery, serves the same purpose. Let people grieve and let them remember. And let the people who didn’t know them see something of this life gone by, know the person was more than just a statistic and maybe watch their own driving a little more.
Our culture often lacks the acknowledgement of death and grief, expectinng everyone to act normal a week after a loved one’s death. Often people have to suppress their feelings, which can cause health problems along the way. A roadside memorial may just be one way for people to deal with their grief in a culture where we try to keep death invisible.