Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Little Roadside Memorials . . .

   Many times I have driven on back roads and have seen little memorials alongside the road, sometimes in the most barren and unlikely places. They are tiny works of art, sad little reminders of life that is no longer. Sometimes people come and put things on the little memorials - toys, plastic flowers, and other little things. Some of these little memorials have the names of the people on them in some way - perhaps painted on, and some have more elaborate name plates on them.

   I have always been curious about the birth of this tradition. The Hispanic culture has its Dia de Muerte, and many other cultures actually have celebrations during the year remembering the dead. Even elephants, as they pass through areas where their ancestors have died, stop to tenderly pick up the bones and feel them and then put them carefully back where they were.
   There is something very touching and harking back to a gentler time when each stage of life was something worth remembering, and something that was treasured.
   “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. 
   "It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”  ― Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451