Thursday, July 23, 2009

On-Site Memorials

There was an interesting discussion in the comments area of story on WIVB on the subject of roadside memorials. They seem to be everywhere, and it's not just a WNY thing but spans the world. I'm of the opinion that the place for grieving, for remembering, is wherever people find comfort.

From Perfect Memorials (source of picture):
"Roadside memorials can be therapeutic for survivors, according to E. Jean Scully, psychotherapist, bereavement counselor and retired professor at the School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University. Scully states, “When a loved one is violently taken, it leaves you unable to say goodbye . . . and creates a helpless need to connect to that spot.”
Back to the online story, "can't understand" wrote (5th down):
"I can never understand the motivation to put flowers at a crash site. I mean, I don't put flowers on my lawn where my grandma had her heart attack. Now you have to go to two places to remember people---their grave and where they crashed?"
This sparked a lively interchange with numerous replies that the administrator finally cut off. On one hand a friend of Amber Graf wrote that the memorials are a way for people to deal with the grief and shock, and that it was very little encumbrance on the owner. Very emotional.

Another viewpoint (who seemed to me to be a person just spoiling for an argument) claimed that as a property owner they would tear up every last speck of a memorial because mourners were trespassing. Jerk. Then there was the dispassionate person who brought up a public safety issue, as in a distraction while driving.

First, public safety. This is in a time where community groups are solicited to "Adopt a Highway" and get out there with orange bags to pick up litter while traffic is sometimes whizzing by at 50+ mph. Then there are billboards, signs, you name it. Non-issue in my opinion.

Then there is the subject of the rights of property owners. Many people agree with the concept that an owner should be able to do with their property what they want, even if it means coldheartedly shoveling a roadside memorial into a garbage bag. Where things start to unravel is when an owner wants to build a WalMart or Wegmans, or maybe wants to fiddle with a historic building. Or when a widow wants to have an on-site memorial on her own property.

Karen Wielinski hopes the Town of Clarence and its residents can understand that a memorial for Flight 3407 needs to be on the spot of the crash. Robin Tolsma is on camera explaining that 6038 Long Street is where her beloved passed from this earth, not down the street, around the corner, or a mile away, but right there. And it is on that site where many feel the last tenuous connection their loved ones taken so tragically, so suddenly, from them.

From WKBW:

The Town supervisor is shown making a thoughtful but neutral statement, knowing he's caught between a rock and a hard place as far as the divided wishes of the residents of Clarence Center are concerned.

And now Long Street has now suffered another horrific loss, perhaps giving more people some insight on the need to go to the spot that will now be forever indelibly linked with the life and untimely death of a person they loved. Then again, perhaps not. Some may never understand how a memorial brings comfort, whether it be roadside, on-site, or a stone in a cemetery, far removed from the last moment of life. Loved ones live on in memories and in the heart after all.

However, whether it's to mourn, to remember, or to feel connection with the last moment of life of a loved one, the feelings of those left behind on this earth should be respected. Leave the mourners and memorials be. It may be the only semblance of peace they can find.

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