Road Side Reminders

I'm sure you've seen them. They are the road side reminders of a death. Visible grief at a life lost too soon in a traffic fatality. There is one close to my house. I didn't know the victim, I know that he had been at a high school football game, and tried to cross the road where there wasn't a cross walk, and he died. I know his name, I've seen his picture. I know that he is missed.

The City of Prince Albert, in Saskatchewan is trying to decide how long to leave them up. It's a hard debate, with good points on both sides. The article is here, with the comments.

Perhaps, as a grieving mother, a grieving person, a person with a hole in my heart, I am struck by society's demands that families and friends "be over it". I am struck by those who insist that public memorials of this type are tacky, or tasteless, or that they should be removed, because they don't match some one's aesthetic tastes. Or that they should be removed because such grief should be private. Restricted to cemeteries and homes, where many cannot see it. Certainly the one by my house looks to be in rough shape. Largely forgotten, except by a few, who may draw some comfort in knowing that their son was cared for, is not entirely forgotten. Perhaps they draw comfort that I have slowed down in that area. That I watch for young men and women. That it matters to me that children go home to their parents, safe and sound.

But, I am struck by the comments.

"We must move on"

"They attract dirt and decay"

"That's what cemeteries are for"

As I progress in my grief, as I begin to live again, I am struck by how other's expect Mr. Spit and I to be the same. How they expect that we will adjust for them, to make them feel comfortable. How we will put aside the hurt seeing a child causes, so that the parents can feel comfortable. How we will look on the bright side, and not demand that support be supportive. How they demand that any pathetic and paltry effort at support be acknowledged and appreciated.

I am, in particular, struck by the notion that these monuments should be removed when they start looking poorly. That when things get ugly, when the stuffed animals are waterlogged, when the flowers have died, when the ink has run off the notes, then we should remove them from our sight.

Did the grief go away? Did it magically vanish? Leave the world as quickly and easily as ink on wet paper? Or is it still there? Is it a twinge in a long healed broken bone, on a rainy day? A twinge that becomes almost as acute a pain as the original break, but perhaps that painful only once or twice a year. Is it a missing space? A friend who is not at this year's football games. A son who is not present at his birthday? A mother who remembers 18 years with him. A brother or a sister, who will look around at her wedding, at his graduation, and remember the other face that should have been in the family portrait?

You see, the idea of waterlogged and battered stuffed animals, dead flowers, notes with no words, they perfectly describe a stage of grief. A stage in which grief is unending in it's sameness. A mother who woke up, and her son was dead. She went to sleep, and he was still dead. The days and nights are carrying on, and perhaps she is carrying on with them, but the struggle, it is enormous. The strength required to get through each day, and to rest in each night, it defies description. And this struggle, this strength, it is largely private, largely silent. Other's do not see it, they do not bear it.

She is further along the road of grief than I, this mother. She does not share my grief, and I do not know hers. But, it seems to me, in the midst of society determined to remove grief, determined to remove human sorrow and pain, when they become battered and waterlogged, I can remember. I can observe. And I can open my eyes to the waterlogged and battered, and take it all in. And I cannot bear her grief for her. I cannot give her strength or courage, or make it any easier. But I can be a witness. I can look. And see.