Lilies by the Roadside

On the way home from picking up dinner yesterday, my partner and I saw something new at the intersection where we turn onto the road to home. It was an enormous teddy bear, brown and fluffy, propped up against a light post. We took a closer look, and we saw it: the roadside memorial, with flowers, toys, and a sign to the departed. The memorial was still there this gray, rainy afternoon. In fact, it had grown, and a small group gathered in front of it, the hazard lights of their cars blinking, their hoods drawn up. I passed them on my way to the supermarket.

Spontaneously, as I followed the winding road toward my destination, I burst into song. My throat is still recovering from a recent cold, but my voice was strong from beginning to end. I sang the song of the dead four times, until only a brooding silence lingered in my car. I pulled into the store’s parking lot and mentally added another item to my grocery list.

“If you don’t do this,” I told myself, “then you can’t call yourself a death worker.”

On my way back home, I brought white lilies to the shrine. The mourners thanked me as I reverently laid the lilies on top of a pile of other flowers. Their friend was only 21 years old, they told me, and he’d died in a motorcycle accident.

Once home, I opened my Book of Remembrance. It’s a plain notebook, protected and enchanted with sigils, in which I write the names of the deceased. It’s purpose: to ensure that the dead cross over peacefully to the afterlife, and to exist as a memorial for the dead whose names are written in its pages. People can volunteer names of their late loved ones for it, if they wish. It’s not much, but it’s what I can do, as a death worker, for my community.

I added the young man’s full name to the book and lit a candle.

What is remembered, lives.

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