By heather.cass | July 22, 2014 2:19 am | 0 Comments
If you were to drive by, you could easily miss the mini-memorial, a styrofoam cross with artificial flowers and a similarly decorated wreath. Both no larger than a house cat. Both stuck into the ground in front of a tree with a much larger memorial — a three foot gash in the trunk, marking the place where a young man who was finally getting his life together lost it.
He lived down the street from us and was just a boy when we first moved in. We saw him grow up over the years. I know his mom. He was home on leave the night he died.
As irony would have it, the cross and wreath don’t look all that out of place as the tree is part of a memorial garden on property owned by a funeral home. Directly across the street is the entrance to a cemetery, where I suspect the young man was buried. He died late one night (or early one day, I guess) after spending the night out with a friend. A passenger in a fast-moving car. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
When I see the memorial as I’m running by in the first light of morning, I pause. Standing there, breathing heavy, sweat trickling down my back, I realize it’s for him — that little boy (as I’ll always think of him) down the road. I think about what it must be like for his parents to drive past this spot. Do they avoid going home this way now, or does it bring some measure of comfort in knowing their son was here?
Then I think about the tree. I touch it’s scar, where the bark was stripped away as it absorbed the blow of a 4,000-pound tumbling vehicle. I think about how strong that tree must be to withstand that impact and still stand straight and solid. I wonder if it, too, will ever really heal from that one terrible night.
I turn around and run back home, grateful to be able to do so and thankful for the opportunities that running gives me to think and to see what so many miss.
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