DebbieDoesLife

Monday, December 04, 2006

White Crosses


I don't understand the white crosses that people put up where someone died. You know the ones. The highways these days have shrines filled with crosses, flowers and teddy bears. I do not understand this need to commemorate where someone died. I wonder if I lose someone close would I be drawn to this ritual? Or, would I want my family erecting one for me if I died alongside a road?

There is a white cross just outside of my neighborhood. It is a side street, no shoulder, or streetlights and people travel from 45 - 60 mph on this road. No stretch of the imagination that someone was killed on this curve.

The cross appeared a little over a year ago. I don't remember hearing about an accident. After it first appeared I would try and slow to see it. You see, there is a photo on the cross and a name. I have made out the first name and I think it was Lance. He had dark hair and looks young, (maybe 19-20?) Then I saw her.

I am guessing but being a fellow member of the Mom's club, I would say its his mother. She keeps the cross surrounded with flowers, balloons and other photos. At first, when I drove by and saw her playing her guitar and singing to the cross, I thought "How sweet but sad." Now, I am thinking it is not healthy.

Yesterday, when my family and I drove by, the woman was openly weeping and touching her fingers to the cross, where the picture hangs. Her grief seems to be as fresh as the first day she learned that her son had been torn from her life.

Dear Fellow Mother:

I am so sorry for your loss. A loss I can only imagine and will hopefully never have to endure. But, I don't think Lance would want this life for you. He would want you to move on and not have this attachment to the place he died. Remember him for where he LIVED. Visit his friends and his favorite places. Rejoice in the days you had with him.

I will not ask you to move on because I think with this kind of grief you never really do. I think you learn to live WITH it, but still, its time for you to stop picking at this wound and let it scar over.

17 Comments:

  • I understand that everyone handles grief differently, but I couldn't agree more. This is why I have never visited my mother's grave. She's not there. When I go back to Virginia Beach, I visit the places we used to go together, the places she loved. It's a much better way for me to keep her in my memory than a plaque in the ground.

    By Anonymous TB, at 12/04/2006 8:50 AM  

  • I've wondered the same thing about the crosses. In my mind, if it makes 10% of the people slow down, even slightly, then they're worth it. However, the ones with the flowers and notes - well, I guess I should never question the way people grieve until I'm there.

    Anyway, I read recently that in Montana it's the VFW that does the crosses, and because there's such a backlog, sometimes crosses don't get put up for a year. So this mom may be grieving someone who left her quite a while ago. Would you ever stop and talk to her?

    By Blogger Mignon, at 12/04/2006 2:52 PM  

  • I've wondered the same thing about the crosses. In my mind, if it makes 10% of the people slow down, even slightly, then they're worth it. However, the ones with the flowers and notes - well, I guess I should never question the way people grieve until I'm there.

    Anyway, I read recently that in Montana it's the VFW that does the crosses, and because there's such a backlog, sometimes crosses don't get put up for a year. So this mom may be grieving someone who left her quite a while ago. Would you ever stop and talk to her?

    By Blogger Mignon, at 12/04/2006 2:53 PM  

  • Oops - I went to the bathroom after that first comment and apparently pooed out my brain.

    By Blogger Mignon, at 12/04/2006 2:53 PM  

  • That poor woman. There's a part of me that can understand her wanting to remember the spot where her son died, but I totally agree with you. Although it's hard sometimes to let go of death and celebrate life, it really is the only way to go on and remember the ones we loved so much who are gone.

    I share TB's sentiments -- when my mom was alive, I thought I'd feel close to her by having her in a cemetery. It's not how I feel at all now that she's gone -- I feel her with ME, not there at her grave.

    I think Mignon's got a good point, though -- if even one of those crosses makes someone else slow down, it's worth it.

    By Anonymous mamatulip, at 12/04/2006 4:55 PM  

  • This hits close to home for me. My brother-in-law was killed by a drunk driver almost 15 years ago in our area. I think that his family did put a cross up for awhile. It did not matter. My husband and I cannot still drive past that stretch of road without pausing and looking at one another. I can't even imagine how it is for my sister-in-law or her 16-year-old son who never knew his father.

    I did read once that police actually don't like these crosses. They distract people and they cause other wrecks while people are trying to read them. But, they didn't feel they could stop the cross placing in any way because people would not understand.

    When you lose someone, you just want somehow for people to know that their life mattered. I think that's probably what people who put the crosses really want. People to realize that a life was taken away there that meant something. It's sad...

    By Blogger Crazy MomCat, at 12/04/2006 4:56 PM  

  • My mum was very seriously injured in an accident when I was little, and I still don't like driving by the place where it happened, same goes for friends of mine who were killed in an accident in high school.

    Would you consider leaving a pamphlet about a local grief counseling group for her and a note saying "I see you here often and wonder if this might help"? Most churches, health units here have free programs, it's probably the same there. Hopefully she'll get there (in a position to deal with her grief) on her own time.

    By Anonymous Heather, at 12/04/2006 5:54 PM  

  • I agree with you, but I do understand the need to visit the place where the person's spirit...uh...left the planet. There's a place in our neighborhood that is the site of a tragic accident where one of Mr. Half's childhood friends died after his car hit a tree in someone's yard. The tree is permanently scarred and I've always wondered about that spot. Where does that energy go? If that person's energy isn't at the grave (and I don't necessarily think it is)then would it hang around someplace else? Just wondering.

    By Anonymous wordgirl, at 12/04/2006 7:55 PM  

  • On leaving a grief counseling pamphlet at the cross: I don't think people in the midst of grief would be receptive to that; I think they would likely find it invasive and possibly insulting. I know I would. Rather, if any contact were to be made with Lance's mom, it would be important to "meet her where she is," figuratively speaking. A person has to be able to experience and express their feelings fully in order to move to the next step.

    By Blogger B.E.C.K., at 12/05/2006 5:39 AM  

  • We actually have a wooden cross in our front yard. It's been there since before we built our house. Someone was killed there in a car accident years ago; I'm not sure who. As far as I can tell, no one comes to check on it, but it will remain there forever.

    By Blogger Renee, at 12/05/2006 10:32 AM  

  • I always thought they were reminders for people to be safe and slow down... I never imagined someone would actually mourn at it like it was a grave. How sad. And I agree, unhealthy.

    By Blogger Tink, at 12/05/2006 1:57 PM  

  • I too always figured they were sort of a warning to others, you know, 'someone died here, so you slow down and be more careful'. I can't imagine crying at it like a grave. I don't think I'd cry at a grave either. I'm one of those people that avoids things that give me negative thoughts.

    By Anonymous Sharla, at 12/05/2006 6:09 PM  

  • Oregon has laws also, about these kind of markers. Oregon also has a way you can do something else. You can have a stretch of road named for a person and a sign is put up. It's green, like the other state signs in the area, but doesn't distract. The crosses make me sad also, but I also find them distracting. One on my way to work, has since been removed, but the daffodils that were planted sitll bloom every spring. I find that a joy.

    By Blogger Brenda, at 12/05/2006 9:01 PM  

  • i thought it was for all of us driving by to be aware and becareful. i guess someone has to be putting the flowers etc there, i've just never actually seen anyone. i hope lances mom can find joy and not grieve so hard.

    By Blogger acaligurl, at 12/05/2006 11:53 PM  

  • That is very sad...I also hope Lance's mom can heal. I'm not sure how I would handle the death of a child in an accident, but I feel I'd probably maintain a stronger connection to the places he or she enjoyed life. At least I hope I would...

    (Just catching up on your blogs; hope you're feeling chipper & the job scene is looking up!)

    By Blogger Jess Riley, at 12/06/2006 10:34 AM  

  • I wouldn't want a memorial. I'd want people who knew me to remember me with a smile on their lips and laughter that can't be contained. And when they heard a Barry Manilow song or Elvis song, the person would think happy thoughts of me.

    nettie

    By Blogger nettie-fudge, at 12/06/2006 4:30 PM  

  • Some religions believe that the spirit stays near where the person died, not where their outer shell (body) was buried. I know that is why some crosses were first put up.

    I also know that on some dangerous stretches of roads the crosses are installed as reminders to drive carefully by various groups. You can usually tell the difference by the memorabilia left at the crosses where the family has put it there, which is probably why that mother continues to seek solice, or grieve for her son. But as with all stages in our lives, there will need to be a time for her to let him go.

    I know when my brothers baby daughter died, I felt like I had a giant hole in my heart, the pain was so severe I could hardly breathe. I kept wondering how my brother and his wife could cope with the pain they must be going through and that it had to be 100X worse than what I was feeling. Losing a child must be the worse pain imaginable.

    By Blogger Seeking My Zen Garden, at 12/08/2006 8:57 PM  

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