It’s amazing the things you see while walking that you blaze by in a car with barely a glance. Today I walked on the road that runs in front of my mechanic’s shop while waiting for my van to be serviced. It was a cool, foggy morning. The fog was lifting, but still gave a surreal feel to my surroundings. About a mile out, I ran across an angel. Then a little while later I came upon the roadside memorial pictured above.
I don’t know if this is a common practice in other parts of the country or world, but here in the South people will frequently erect crosses or place flowers on the side of the road where a loved one died in a car accident. I’ve seen dozens – or more. They are sobering reminders to those who pass by of the uncertainty of life.
Today, for the first time, I saw one up close. I examined it at first out of curiosity. My curiosity quickly turned to reverence. For a few solemn moments, I grieved the loss of a teenage boy that I never knew, whose name I will probably never know. But I do know a few things about him.
He wore caps – I imagine quite often. There were three that I saw. Two were hanging on the cross. One had fallen or been blown off. I carefully replaced it before I left. From them I learned that he was a UNC fan, a New England Patriots fan, and he liked Hondas. I am guessing that he was driving a Honda since a Honda hubcap was propped nearby. He attended one of the larger high schools in the county – there was a lanyard hanging on the cross bearing its name. I wondered about the significance of the bandana tied around the cross or the beads hanging beneath. There were two items that I initially thought were trash, but on closer inspection I saw that they had been placed there purposefully and weighted down to keep them from blowing away – a Dr. Pepper can and the plastic bag from Pepperidge Farm dinner rolls. A CD had been wedged into the ground, its title worn away by the weather. The words written in permanent marker could still be read: “We love you and miss you so much.”
Yes, believe he was dearly loved. From the care and thought put into this memorial, I know he is missed. And today someone grieved his death again – a complete stranger who happened upon holy ground.