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ROADSIDE IS NO PLACE TO PROPERLY HONOR DEAD

When I visit my mother's grave, I always try to bring flowers to place beside her headstone. Many people do the same for their loved ones. Seeing the colorful blossoms nestled alongside of each grave makes the large cemetery seem less morbid. This tradition of decorating grave sites has been customary for centuries. I have been doing it for 20 years now, since I was 6 years old.

So as I travel not only the country roads where I live, but city ones as well, I have to wonder who transplanted this same tradition to roadsides. When I first spotted the bright yellow and red flowers, a cross, and even a picture of the deceased at the edge of a street, I questioned its purpose.

"That's where the teenager died a couple weeks ago in a car accident," the passenger in my vehicle told me.

I raised my eyebrows, then frowned. "How very sad," I replied as I drove along my way. It's never easy to accept such a youthful tragedy.

The mind begins spinning with questions such as, "What if that was my son?" or "That could've been me." An occurrence like this makes one grateful for the lives we may have previously taken for granted.

Yet, I am still puzzled by the sudden popularity of such displays. And each time I drive by one, I can't keep from wondering, "Is this how everybody wants to remember this person -- that he or she died in a car wreck, pedestrian accident or motorcycle crash?" Or could it be it's erected as more of a sign to caution drivers -- "Beware: death happened here"? And if so, is instilling fear in every driver that passes by the right course of action to take?

The time and care spent on these displays of love could be put to better use in more positive ways. Even if the deceased was cremated, couldn't a planted tree or flower garden in their own backyard be made to remember them by? Don't get me wrong, I certainly feel for the grieving parents, friends and siblings in these unfortunate deaths. Many of their loved ones died very young.

Just two years ago, a man with whom I graduated stood no chance on his motorcycle when it went up against a drunk driver. And when I pass the corner at which this fatality occurred, the last thing I want to picture is him dying on the side of the road. The flowers that are always in my vision when I pull up to the stop sign do just that.

Instead, I'd like to remember him just the way he was -- a kind-hearted individual who loved life.

Many of these accidents that took people's lives were caused by some distraction -- whether it was being under the influence of alcohol, a cellular phone, or changing a CD in the car stereo. Do we really need something else to take the driver's eyes off the road?

People are curious by nature, and they will look, maybe even stare, at the beautiful shrine made in honor of your sister, brother, daughter, son or friend. But will it be worth it when another accident occurs because of it?

These memorials should be taken down and placed where they belong -- somewhere nice, somewhere as beautiful as the lives that were cut short. On the edge of the road where they died doesn't do them or their memory justice.

LYNN M. LOMBARD, a legal secretary, lives in Akron.

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