Last Saturday morning while I was driving home, I came to an intersection where a service road meets a parkway. I saw a commotion and I saw that the road was blocked. Ahead was a crowd of people gathered around a bicyclist who had been hit by a SUV. I backed out of the intersection and I took a side street home. The next morning I read that the bicyclist had died. No charges had been filed against the man who drove the SUV. It was just an awful accident that ended the life of a woman and the hope of a man. I did not know the woman. I do not know the man.
The next Monday while I drove home, I saw the intersection and my heart grew heavy because I recalled the woman and her death. The accident had occurred near my house and beside a grade school. And I noticed that someone had erected a memorial to the woman. They had strapped a bike to a post and covered it with signs and flowers. I’m assuming someone wanted to mark her memory. Friday I passed by the bike and I saw students removing the flowers and plucking the petals as they played.
Now each time I drive by the intersection - nearly every day - I recall the woman as I see the bike. And I recall that the SUV driver must also pass that bike. And his wife must pass that bike. And his children must pass that bike. And his neighbors must pass that bike. Yet the man will never surpass the sorrow he feels nor the horror he caused. It is etched in his mind and burned into his heart. Whether or not it is marked on his soul, is God’s place to judge.
Now I’m certain that we can all agree that each life should be marked. Yet her gravestone will mark her existence. Her family has photographs and memorabilia for remembrance. Yet now her death will be marked by a family who never knew her in life and will never forget her in death. So why does she need a public memorial besides a tombstone at her gravesite? Is death now considered an extraordinary achievement? Why do people scorn and berate communicants who kneel before a statue or light a votive candle in supplication, yet gather on a street and offer stuffed animals to a sign? Flowers, candles, pilgrimages, how extreme has this gone? Isn’t there something sacrilegious about equating a Crucifix and a bicyclist?
I think it’s cruel and thoughtless and inhumane to put that bike on that sign. And I’m wondering if those who feel that the moment of her death should be marked - would like the evidence of their sins and mistakes and errors marked. Should we hang chicken legs from the mailboxes of the obese who’ve died from heart attacks? Should we nail used condoms on the trees in front of the homes of the unfaithful? Should we dangle liquor bottles from the rain gutters on the homes of alcoholics? Should we puncture the lawns with needles from the drug users? Should we throw baby bottles on the sidewalk in front of homes of women who've had abortions? Should we make the survivors of the Texas hurricane wear signs that read “selfish” because they cost the taxpayers’ money and put the emergency workers in peril when they coveted their goods and didn’t heed the warning to evacuate? Where does this Hawthornian mentality stop? How many scarlet letters of the alphabet should each man wear?
Yesterday a group of bikers rode from accident site to accident site of the bicyclists who’ve recently died in the Twin Cities. I noticed they all wore black. I think it’s appropriate. They killed a family and they prostituted the dead for a sense of inclusion and the pretense of importance. They should feel ashamed with a capital A.