I feel like I should have something more profound to say about this post but really, I’m still searching for answers when it comes to matters so dark. Every time I turn my attention towards this project there are so many unanswered questions that hopefully as I continue to research I can begin to answer. This was only the beginning of this project I still have so much to do, learn, read, research. I’m glad I could share these images with you all though and I do hope that they serve as reminder that life is so beautifully precious and fragile. Please don’t take your life for granted.
Often we pass things on the road without even thinking twice about what we have passed. This is one of those places that I can’t pass without looking and thinking about anymore. Its in a stretch of beautiful highway in the delta that curves through some orchards and if you blink you may miss it. I don’t really think I need to explain how sad this is because the pictures speak for themselves. Life is so precious and we need to honor the gift we’ve been given by living a great life and trying to stay safe out in this dangerous world.
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the meaning of these crosses as I’ve been researching these roadside memorials. Why families put them up and maintain them many years after the fact even if the person is buried in a proper cemetery. Why do we try to immortalize such a sad place? While reading up about roadside memorials I began seeing an alternate word for them descanso. Descanso comes from the spanish, rest, or in this connotation, final resting place.
Lately I’ve been watching a lot of tv shows on netflix, and one of my favorites has been this cancelled way too early show called Dead Like Me from showtime. Its about a girl named George (Georgia) who is killed seemingly randomly at the young age of 18 and instead of moving on to her afterlife she becomes a grim reaper instead, helping souls who have died tragically “cross over” or meet their “lights.” In one episode George’s very spiritual grandma is visiting and is talking to her little sister about her sudden death and she asks the little sister “Have you ever been to that place, Reggie? That place where George died?” to which the sister responds with a grunt no. The grandma simply states to her “Its an important place in her life, it should be an important place in yours too.”
I think that right there is part of the reason why we (we being humans experiencing tragedy) feel the need to memorialize things like this when they happen. This is an important place, it is sacred ground, the history of this exact place has been changed forever. This is their descanso, their final resting place. Here where these crosses stand a very unsuspecting soul met their fate and left their earthly body. Whether you are religious or not we can both agree that a very important life ended at this very spot, and if that person were able to communicate it, it would definitely be a very important place in their life, one that deserves notation, because its where it all ended. You can either believe that it ended and a new one began or it just ended, leaving a void in your remaining loved ones lives forever.
Yes, these are reminders to slow down and drive a little more carefully. Yes they are hauntingly beautiful. But above all else these are memorials to a sad event in someones life, one that can’t be forgotten. I think thats why these spring up in places of tragedies, and I definitely think that these are worth being preserved.
*Part 3 of a 5 part series
“Most of them just go in the river, and they don’t come out.” – volunteer firefighter for Clarksburg, CA
While in the early stages of this project I was growing impatient with the outcome of my research so I decided I would try to talk to some locals or firefighters, sheriffs, really anyone who could tell me more about these stories. I had the small opportunity to talk to a volunteer firefighter for Clarksburg which is one of the bigger towns along this stretch of river. He was telling me how a couple of his high school classmates met an early fate here at the river road and how it had impacted him as a young person and I suppose I should have known better than to ask this but I asked what usually happens since hes one of the first people on the scene when these tragedies occur. He simply stated “Most of them just go in the river and don’t come out.” That was pretty much the thing that shut me up and thanked him for his time. I felt bad for prying out of curiosity and clearly he didn’t want to say more. I definitely learned to be a bit more cautious and respectful when researching these things, I can’t even imagine what people must go through.
While doing some initial research for this project I came across some statistics. In 2010 32,885 lives were claimed by roads. This is unfortunately the lowest rate on record since at least 1994 when the database began recording*.
This means that roughly 100 lives are lost to a car accident a day.
Thats 3 souls per hour or more.
Thats 3 families an hour that will never see their loved one again.
These roadside memorials are only a fraction of that. If that isn’t a sobering statistic, I’m not sure what is.