Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Death memorials

I was reminded recently (to paraphrase something I read someplace) that in death we continue to exist in the memory of others. I was reminded of that as I alluded to that fact in a discussion I had a few days ago. I was reminded again when I recalled the face a day later (in what seemed to be vivid detail) of someone who died a fair length of time ago. And I recalled the phrase as I started to work on this post about “roadside memorials”. Those memorials are an increasing phenomenon in a variety of countries (google it like I did) and places (roadside, porches, online, etc).

Why do people build these memorials? Are they reflective of some new spirituality, as some would have you believe, or are they just people being people honoring death and remembering the dead?

These memorials mark the place where someone died suddenly, often violently, an untimely death, or as someone put it “yanked from this earth”. Are they an attempt to develop “sacred space” or are they a more secular attempt to provide a marker for the memory of that individual’s life and death? We do not want to forget those that die before we do, for fear of forgetting do we build these memorials? They do create a space for remembering and mourning. They do provide a physical space to hope for peace for those who have died and for peace for those that mourn the dead.

In that I see their benefit. A space (sacred or not) is created that is connected to those that have died, beyond the “official” places for mourning. It seems a more immediate (close) and a more real place for these contemplations and offerings of “respect”. Death is a part of life and those that have died live on in our memories of them. The real memorial is in us, but, at least temporarily, we may need a memorial outside of ourselves to remind ourselves of that fact.

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