There are two roadside memorials near our house. One was for a kid on a motorcycle who underestimated our road and his ability. It was replaced by a rather nice cross marker on a tree.
I don't know the story behind the other one. As I passed it today, I noticed that the memorial has taken on the function that used to be served by the gravesite in a cemetery. It has a cross, and a picture, and flowers, and notes.
The family's sorrow is palpable.
Some of these are very elaborate with flowers and balloons and pictures. Most turn into sad piles of debris as mother nature runs her course, the flowers wilt, and the names fade.
So who is responsible for maintaining a roadside shrine, and for how long? Is there a protocol for moving the roadside honor to the home of the victim? Or to their gravesite?
At what point may a memorial be "released" without injuring those who are aching for their loved one?
It has to be difficult for the families and friends to grieve as they pass the vivid reminder. It has to be equally hard to be the landowner of "the place" where the memorial is a daily visual of a deadly event.
It seems a bit ghoulish to me, personally, but there are actually businesses on the internet that sell roadside memorial products (with overnight shipping, of course).
So, where's the middle ground here? I checked Wikipedia to see if there is any background on roadside memorials. Although uncited by factual reference, it suggests that the emergence of roadside memorials "related to a growing reluctance to seek spiritual solace in organized religion." I don't know that I buy that concept, because most memorials contain crosses and references to prayer.
Wikipedia also suggested that since most crash victims are not well-known, perhaps it is an impulse action on the part of friends and families to make a public display of emotion at the site of a tragedy in much the same way as the public did after the death of Princess Diana.
It went on to say that one beneficial aspect to a memorial is that it "serves as a warning to other road users, both as a general reminder of the dangers of driving, and to mark a place where a fatal accident took place."
I don't really believe that either, because we live on a road where the kids on crotch rockets see how fast they can "take the curves" every time we have a sunny day. They don't even slow down for the deaf child signage that is displayed on both sides of the road.
When Commissioner Spraggins was in office a few years back, she asked me one time if I thought it would help to have a speed bump in the middle of our road.
While the idea has some appeal, I told her it would just punish the people who live on the road, and that it would mean we'd have wrecks in the middle of the road as well as on both ends.
Denese Rodgers is executive director of Connecting Henry, a social-service, networking, community organization in Henry County.