View Full Version : Death Shrines Multiply.

11-03-2008, 11:29 AM
Wayside Memorials at a Crossroads
As Shrines Proliferate, Officials Tread Softly In Calling for Removal

By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 3, 2008; Page B01

Every day, it gets a little easier to forget. The memory dims, the picture fades and more is lost. For the past five years, Deana Rogers has been fighting against time.

Every week since her husband died, she has visited the site where his motorcycle crashed and tended the memorial she built for him there. Some days, she trims the grass. On others, she adds a new ceramic angel or picture. To her, it is more than a tribute; it is an act of defiance against pressures to move on, to let go, to give up.

Out of respect, state highway officials for years have turned a blind eye to her memorial on the side of Route 50, near Davidsonville in Anne Arundel County. But this year, just before the anniversary of her husband's death, they told her that it had to be removed.

The number of such memorials has become a problem, the officials said, one they can no longer ignore. Every few weeks, another one pops up, meaning another difficult call to make to a grieving family.

Across the country, such memorials dot roads and byways. They have increased in number and magnitude, experts say, even as traffic fatalities have decreased nationwide.

They inhabit a tricky place in the eyes of the law. Officially, permanent roadside memorials are frowned upon, deemed a hazardous distraction, and they are illegal in many jurisdictions, including Maryland, Virginia and the District. Some states strictly enforce the bans. In Wyoming, for instance, road crews removed almost 300 memorials rcently. In other places, such as Virginia, families can pay for the posting of a standardized, state-maintained sign that reads, "Drive safely in memory of . . . "

But even the most stringent by-the-book bureaucrats say they recognize the delicate nature of the memorials and the intimate and tender grief they represent.

These didn't really exist when I was a kid. At most, the State Patrol might erect a plain white cross at the side of a highway where a particularly horrible traffic accident had happened. About 10 years ago, however, I started seeing these things everywhere. They incorporated fake flowers, windchimes, candles, food offerings, and all manner of stuff.

My theory is that as more people have no organized religious framework to work through death, they still feel the impulse to memorialize the dead but lack a church, cemetery, or formal way to do this. They create these shrines to satisfy this impulse.

What do you think? Do they bother you? Mr. Snaps hates them.

WaPo (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/02/AR2008110202218.html?hpid=moreheadlines)

11-03-2008, 11:44 AM
I saw that article in the paper this morning, and I agree with Mr. Snaps. I also think your take on it makes sense, about why people do it. My husband has to negotiate an intersection every day which is so festooned with these things that it limits his visibility; he says it's a good way to make sure more memorials will be added at that corner. :(

11-03-2008, 11:51 AM
I've always said these things were a distraction and would likely cause more accidents. I feel for the grieving families but if my husband died in a car accident I sure as hell wouldn't put up some memorial at the scene. It's weird.

11-03-2008, 11:51 AM
You'd do what I'd do, go out and get another husband.

11-03-2008, 12:05 PM
You'd do what I'd do, go out and get another husband.

We all would. Who really wants to be responsible for the upkeep of sodden teddy bears and tattered plastic flowers?

11-03-2008, 12:12 PM
I was thinking more in terms of a replacement to program the DVR and mow the lawn.

11-03-2008, 01:58 PM
They are illegal in Florida unless the state pust them up but no one has the heart to take them down after they've been erected.

11-03-2008, 02:03 PM
They are illegal in Florida unless the state pust them up but no one has the heart to take them down after they've been erected.

I guess not. I didn't know they were illegal here. I see them everywhere.

11-03-2008, 02:24 PM
We get them a lot in the Detroit area. Not just for car accidents-when there is a fire where kids are killed, people put up teddy bears in front of what's left of the house. I think the group still gathers out by Metro Airport every August to honor the victims of the plane that crashed in 1987 (the one where only the little girl survived).

It bugs me to see all those teddy bears get all soggy in the weather. There are so many poor kids with no teddy bears-the deceased would probably rather see another kid get a teddy bear than see all of the toys wasted like that.

Then again, children's deaths are so tragic, and the community feels a need to respond, so I'm trying not to judge the shrine creators here.

11-03-2008, 02:57 PM
I guess not. I didn't know they were illegal here. I see them everywhere.

People can get permission to put them up, but only in select places. Most of the ones you see are illegal. They violate state and local sign ordinances I believe.

11-03-2008, 04:41 PM
No bother to me and I see why people do it. They are holding on for a while and holding on for a while is OK. If it helps them cope then God Bless them.

11-03-2008, 05:05 PM
It is an imported "tradition".

Imported from Mexico and the Latin American countries. Such "shrines" are in abundance down there. I saw an unmarked intersection in Saltillo once that must have had 80 of them.

11-03-2008, 06:03 PM
My brother died in a car accident in 1980. Our family brought his ashes up to the top of the mountain where he got his one and only deer. My brother carved his name, D.O.B and date deceased on a stone . We arranged a few logs to sit on and that's his memorial. In 1987 my mother passed away from cancer and requested that her ashes be put up there with him. We used to hike up there, have a little lunch and pass a bottle of brandy around about 5 times a year in the beginning. Over the years it's gotten down to only about once a year on my brothers birthday, which is in the peak of foliage season. Personally I like it because it's private and unobtrusive. I'm pretty sure the landowner has seen it from what I understand, but has no problem with it.