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October 2013, vol 8, no 3

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Edward Zuk

Momento Mori

In Surrey, British Columbia, where I live, it has become a custom to erect a small memorial at the scene of a fatal car accident. These remembrances usually consist of a cardboard sign nailed to a telephone pole by a friend or relative, perhaps with a twist of daisies or a candle underneath. Sometimes a photo or locket is left behind. Sometimes there is nothing. "I can't wait to see you in Heaven!" read one sign that was scrawled in block letters with a black marker. "You will live in our hearts forever!" wept another. "An end to all drunk driving!" pleaded a third. One memorial that I saw the other day was recent enough for the wreath to be fresh.

After the crash
a bouquet of wildflowers
a shard of glass

These momento mori always make me pause and grow thoughtful. Our lives are frail, and our dreams of tomorrow can be crushed with a single swerve of a wheel. And what is left for us if our works and dreams can be brushed aside like a fly? What is the point of living? All we can do is hope that, somewhere, there lies a hidden meaning that will redeem the insignificance of our deaths. But if these memorials are any indication, what awaits us is an outpouring of clich├ęs, a vigil or two, and forgetfulness.

The cardboard sign
saying "We will remember"
fades in the rain