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Explain roadside death shrines to me-(13 posts)

Explain roadside death shrines to me-filtersweep
Jul 21, 2003 6:00 PM
I don't mean to be morbid or distasteful, but I just returned from a road trip and I saw two VERY elaborate roadside shrines with numerous floral crosses, pictures, flowers everywhere- impecibly cared for. Both were along the freeway where arguable it isn't the safest place (or legal?) to stop to set these up.

What is the point? I don't remember hearing anything in the news recently (and these were close enough to home)... for all I know these accidents happened years ago.

How long do people keep these? Are they up year around or just on some "anniversary." Don't these people have cemetaries for this sort of thing?

Is this some weird religious sect that I'm unaware of? Sorry, I just don't see anything therapeutic for the grieving survivors, and it is almost offensive to drive by these... and they really are not on "public property" in the first place.

Or am I just missing the point?
re: Explain roadside death shrines to me-mickey-mac
Jul 21, 2003 7:19 PM
I've seen dozens if not hundreds of them and am not sure I have any good answers. One I regularly pass on rides is a roadside memorial for Ennis Cosby, Bill's son. I lost count of the memorials along the highway between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

I will say that I've never seen anyone visiting them, as people visit gravesites. My guess is the significance is to leave something at the location where the person's soul theoretically departed his or her body. They really give me the creeps when I'm out riding because they remind me of my mortality, especially when cars are flying by at 70 mph. I have mental image of one of these makeshift memorials set up in my honor and experience a few seconds of anxiety. Anyhow, I'll stop rambling now.
Personally, they give me the heebie-jeebiesPaulCL
Jul 22, 2003 5:52 AM
..haven't used "heebie-jeebies" in years, but it fits.

On Sunday's 80 miler, I must have passed 3 or 4 shrines. I actually stopped at one particularly elaborate one. It gave me goosebumps. There were the crosses, the plastic flowers, and a sign. The sign had a picture of a young family on it with a remembrance statement on it. Apparently this family, with two young children, had been killed at the spot by a drunk driver. It gave me the shivers and made me look over my shoulder. I suddenly felt very vulnerable to cars. I also pictured my family.

This roadside shrine was well kept and had been updated since I had passed the week before. There were no dates as to when the accident happened. Very sad. If it helps friends and family to get through the grieving process, then I'm all for it. Though I can't imagine ever erecting one myself if, god-forbid, I was in the same circumstances.

By the way...very few hispanics in Northern Kentucky, but a lot of right wing Baptists.
re: Explain roadside death shrines to me-critmass
Jul 21, 2003 10:38 PM
There are two Spanish words descansos which means resting place and crucitas which means little cross. In Spain and Mexico when a coffin was carried from the church to the cemetery where ever the pallbearers rested a crucitas was erected at the descansos to mark the interruption of the journey.
Today a crucitas alongside the road signifies an unattended death, a journey interrupted and it's still called a descansos. It also has to do with marking the place where a person took their last breath which to some is as important as where the body is buried.
Not manyfiltersweep
Jul 22, 2003 4:26 AM
not many Hispanic Catholics in rural and northern MN... mostly Lutherans (which to my knowledge avoid such practices) and fundamentalists- which adds to my curiosity. Granted, on a freeway there is traffic of all sorts...
Not manycritmass
Jul 22, 2003 9:17 AM
According to the Census Bureau there are around 150,000 Mexican-Americans living in MN. But then I was just trying to make you culturally more aware of one possibility of why the markers might be there.
Don't want a loved one to be forgotten.Spoke Wrench
Jul 22, 2003 5:30 AM
I think that they are put up by the family and friends of somebody who died in a traffic crash to remind themselves and others of their loved one.

Here in the St. Louis area there's a lot of them. I'd think they would be a considerable maintenance problem for the highway department, particularly as the memorials become aged and weatherbeaten, but it's not politically correct to remove them. Ultimately, somebody has to make the decision as to when a roadside memorial becomes roadside trash. I'm glad that's not my job.
re: Explain roadside death shrines to me-Mike P
Jul 22, 2003 11:19 AM
Seems like it is becoming more common around here. I think the fact we stick our dead people in a little hole in the ground just so we know where they are should be enough.

The roadside bit is a way to spread the misery associated with loosing a loved one. I mean, doesn't it make you feel better to know everyone who goes by will have a momentary feeling of sadness added to their day?

I say burn me, toss my ashes off some bluff out in the mountains somewhere and think of the fun we had.

I agreePaulCL
Jul 22, 2003 11:41 AM
Stick me in a pine box, cremate me, and use me as fertilizer. As I wrote in my post above, reading the roadside shrine really gave me the creeps and got me bummed out...or sad..or whatever you want to call it. But, the 'erectors' have every right to put up their shrines as long as it is public property. Its' a shrine for those left living not for the dead.

I agree about not making everyone sad in death, but thinking of the fun we had. When my grandfather died, we had a good old Irish wake in his honor. Dozens and dozens of friends came by my Grams' house with food, drink and good memories. At age eighteen, I spent hours listening to 80 year old men recounting stories of the s**t my Granddad did in his youth. I learned of how he fed several families for free(from his grocery store) during the depression. How those families sent him cash or checks every week for decades afterwards. I never knew this stuff - I never really knew my grandfather until that day. As my grandmother listened to all (or most) of the stories of the joy my grandfather had in his life, she momentarily forgot her grief.

Two lessons from the wake: celebrate life (not death) and celebrate life before its' over.

OK. I'm done. Paul
i'm with you guys (nm)JS Haiku Shop
Jul 22, 2003 11:54 AM
There are body outlines stenciled on the streets of SF. . .czardonic
Jul 22, 2003 4:54 PM
. . .in places where pedestrians have been hit and killed. It is very creepy, and makes you stop and think unpleasant thoughts -- by design.

In addition to memorializing the dead, many of these shrines are set up to remind the living of the consequences of drunk-driving, speeding, running red lights, failing to yeild to pedestrians (or jay-walking), etc. You may think that we don't need these reminders about such obvious dangers, yet all of these things happen on a regular basis.

So if it creeps you out, or makes you feel vulnerable on the roads, that is part of the point. You are vulnerable, so please be careful
I stopped this AM and read the details on a shrinePaulCL
Jul 23, 2003 7:42 AM
Very upsetting. My facts were wrong in my post above. When I got home, I looked the accident up on the internet. Young couple (ages 32/30) with five children from former marriages. Recently married, merging the families. Parents killed in the daytime by a drunk driver. Very, very sad to see the pictures on the shrine - pictures of the couple and of five children under the age of 8.

The shrine was permanent. A five foot painted deckwood cross sunk into concrete with two smaller crosses on each side, also sunk into concrete. Then with plastic flowers all around. There is a plastic coated sign with photos and two poems.

The eeriest part was that I stopped on Sunday the 20th to read the sign - then again today. The couple was killed on 7/20/03. Very weird - I was there one year to the day after the event. I've passed that spot probably 40 times in the last year without noticing the shrine. In the paper, a memorial fund was listed for donations for the kids.

I might have to write a check. I'm a big pushover when it has to do with children.

I maintained one for my wife for years...The Walrus
Jul 23, 2003 12:09 PM
...just off Highway 39, near Crystal Lake in the San Gabriel mountains. She was nominally a Buddhist, so I placed a small placard and a few of the things she'd had on a little altar in our apartment at the base of some trees near the spot where she died. Why? I'm not really sure I could explain it--I guess it was an attempt to keep some kind of connection to her, or a farewell of sorts. I kept it up for a few years, and was always a bit surprised that it was never vandalized or molested. Eventually, I didn't feel a need to continue it, went up the mountain and said a final "Good bye", and brought the things back down with me.

I'd guess that for most people it's just a reaction to a violent loss of a loved one, a tangible expression of grief and an attempt to hang on just a little longer to the victims.