Sunday, March 5, 2017

25 miles, 5 days X 2 and 4 Roadside Shrines

Each work day
I travel...
about 25 miles each way

Back and forth
              Back and forth  
Back and forth
         Back and forth 
                                        Back and forth   

Morning and night, I pass the shrines
All of them becoming during my years on this path

The oldest, tucked beneath the freeway overpass
has been there most of the 4.5 years I've been making the drive daily
4.5 years of fading flowers and a peeling painted cross
Taken care of, refreshed,  just once or twice
Seen only when the light, traffic and travel direction
sync to make my looking successful

The second one, just about one year old now
A bicycle, painted white and chained to a lamp-post
I remember the day this block of the road was closed on my way into work...
road closed, and I had to detour through unknown streets as the police did their work
Pop-up awning in the middle of the street
White sheet and yellow crime tape
Paint and flowers now faded and limp
Candles dark

Weeks ago, another road closed...going home
Another detour
Abundance of emergency personnel
Lights flashing, blinding
Hit and Run, I later learn
Next morning, Monday morning...
a shrine on the fence
Filled with color and words and remembrance
Slowly grows over the coming days

Mid-February, giant rainstorm
A young man of 15 walking home
Calls his mom to let her know, but she
m i s s e s the c a l l

Days and days and days go by
Then finally, two weeks later and 18 miles downstream.
he is found

His shrine goes from a few missing posters, signs and a few candles
it grows daily

larger and larger

After his young body is found,
his shrine explodes
It becomes as big as the pain of his people, his neighborhood
of humanity

Hundreds of candles flicker each night in the darkness
Notes, cards, and metallic balloons also flicker on the breeze

Crowds gather, standing, looking into the wash, which took him away
as if answers can be found there
as if time itself could be reversed

Last Friday, another road closure, another detour 
and many, many more candles
as maybe thousands gather in a silent vigil,
to walk his path
to honor this boy
...and to hold his family and friends in this collective hug

Last Friday, my brother-in-law would have been 65 years old
It is his first birthday we celebrate without him

Family talk by phone, post messages on FB 
or gather in person to honor him
to hold one another
to consider his life and death

As I work my way through this latest detour on Friday night
I think of the great loss being felt
I think of a parent, or two, I know that have lost their children...
as this is the hard time of year for them
And I think of my brother-in-law, Gary

A few large intersections later
more emergency personnel, flashing lights...
more yellow crime tape and masses of people on the street
As I creep though the intersection, around the taped of section,
careful of the other drivers and hundreds of people on the street...
I see a large SUV, flipped onto its side, in the middle of it all

I steady myself, realizing once again
life can change in a moment

And I breathe and am grateful
to be going home this night.

Take care of one another,

Photos by Nancy A. Erisman ©2017