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Monday, March 26, 2012

Bearing Witness

Last week I was walking through the park with K in the stroller, as I often do. Along the river that cuts through our area, the paved path flows along and the metal fence you see in the image above goes the entire way.

This time there was something different. This time there were these crosses affixed to the fence at even intervals. The first one I passed with mild curiosity, briefly skimming the inscription, but it was seeing the second one that made me stop and actually read it in order to make sense of it.

On each cross was a name (male), a place, and how they died, plus some other word (or two) I couldn't make sense of. The best guess I have based on the info provided was that maybe they were members of a gang or something like that, but I have no way to know. It was seeing the cause of death  of a few listed as 'Shot' that possibly lends credence to my hypothesis, but the truth is I don't know.

I don't know a lot actually. I don't know the names personally, or who these people were. I don't know what compelled someone or some people to put up these markers, other than they wanted a public memorial to people who obviously meant something to them. There were after all about a dozen of these crosses put up, so it must be something big that I simply don't have a reference for.

It also raises more questions than answers. But therein lays the point of all of this.

Whatever their initial intention, the people who put up the crosses got my attention. It truly was a surreal experience but it was also humbling and touching. I walked along slowly, reading, wondering and feeling in general a little sad. When I saw that some of them had obviously been torn down, I wished I could find the missing cross and had a way to put it back up. It was as if some careless stranger had defaced the memorial, and I desired nothing more than to make it right.

For a short while, I participated in this public memorial and these people were a part of my consciousness. They were nothing more than random names, but they were people who had lived and died. And they had had an impact on someone else's life enough that this person or persons felt the need to tell the world (even if it was just a very small piece of it) about these lost people.

Who were they? How old? When did they die? Were they brothers? Fathers? Uncles? Nephews? Best friends of someone? Did they go to school? Have a job? Hope, wish and dream?

I'll likely never know the details, but for a short time they were recognized by someone outside of their experiences. I also think (hope) that I have not been the only one to notice the memorial and take a few moments to honour it's intent.

As I moved away, I was changed, if only in a small way. It made me think about the impact one life can have on others and how we take for granted our own interconnectedness. We are not alone. Someone will have noticed, even if we never know it.

And so it was for me that day. I bore witness to their existence and in doing so, I left a bit of myself with them. As I share this with you, I can't give you all the names so that you can share this with me, but I can ask you to take a moment and think about those in your life, even those you have a passing acquaintance with. Who might you have an impact on that you don't even realize? Some answers are obvious, some are not. But surely the point is to look at ourselves and our lives within the greater picture and see things a little deeper.

To the name on those crosses, I don't know who you are, but you have been seen and recognized. You have clearly not been forgotten.


St Elsewhere said...

Wow, it just sent a shiver down my spine reading the post...

I would also wonder who they were, what they meant to those who put those memorials up there...

Some incredible questions coming out really!

areyoukiddingme said...

I always see the memorials on the roadside, and I always wonder what the story behind them is.

"Alone again.... naturally!" said...

Love your thoughts...love you!