Roadside Shrines And WalMart Grave Goods

Today, I came upon an interesting blog on the subject of roadside memorials, written by none other than Christine Quigley! 

Says Christine, “roadside memorials are those impromptu shrines that take shape at the site of a sudden unexpected death, usually a car accident, but sometimes in front of a house where a murder has occurred. They are an outlet for the outpouring of grief that family, friends, and concerned citizens experience at the loss. But after they have been rained on, they become a bit of an eyesore – bedraggled stuffed animals, weathered photos, ink-splotched notes.”

I was surprised to learn that the creation of such memorials predates the invention of the car.  They’ve always seemed a very peculiar tradition to me, and, I wrongly believed, a new one.  The memorials are meant to mark the exact site of a soul’s supposed departure from the body by the tying of balloons and stuffed animals  to guard rails and placing crucifixes and artificial flowers at the site of fatal accidents. 

I’ve wanted to take a series of pictures of these curious, tattered memorials, and maybe now I will.  I’ve also noticed a similar tradition taking place at certain newer cemeteries, most notably the one beside my workplace.  The graves there are littered with photographs, children’s toys, garden ornaments, soccer balls, ceramic figurines, and so forth.  I did take a series of pictures there a few years back.  I find this tradition somewhat strange, but intriguing.  It is at once highly personal (much moreso than the stylized austerity of cemetery statues) and also tacky.  Seeing graves scattered with cheap plastic goods bought at WalMart is a very different experience from walking through an old cemetery with its grand statues and towering obelists.  And maybe it suits today’s world, for better or worse.

If you’d like to read Christine’s blog entry about roadside memorials, click here!

Many other interesting stories can be found there as well.

I should add that these photos are not my own.  They were found accompanying various news stories about roadside memorials.  Apparently this tradition is especially flourishing out west.  The shrines to their loved ones look a good deal more artful than the sloppy teddy bears and plastic flowers tied to a post that you tend to find here in Ohio.  Below is just one example of a shrine that complements the natural beauty of its setting.  If anybody makes me one upon my untimely demise, please look to western examples for inspiration, and avoid anything plastic.  My ghost will thank you.

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