This morning, we are on the Taconic Parkway, going somewhere around 75 miles per hour, drinking coffee and solving the world’s problems. I make this drive with Donald every week. Up ahead, I see the familiar cross on the side of the road decorated with the remains of some flowers, deflated balloons and some pictures and notes. I quickly and discreetly make the sign of the cross on my forehead with my thumb.
This spattering of crosses and signs goes on for miles and miles. I have never really counted to see how many makeshift shrines exist on this stretch of the Taconic from Route 84 South into Westchester County. Sadly there are too many to count.
I began doing this gesture decades ago. When I was in high school I lost a classmate. A wonderful guy named Jeff. I remember being in school that Monday and hearing of the car accident that took his life. I had a class with him and we were friendly. The Friday before he asked me to give him the words to the James Taylor song, Carolina in My Mind. I never got the chance. I still cry every time I hear that song.
My brother Joey had a best friend in high school, Clyde. He is funny and kind and my brother just loved hanging out with him. (I loved him too.) I knew his family and his parents were wonderful people. One weekend while traveling they were killed by a young driver. They left behind young sons in need of their parents. It broke my heart and I am still saddened when I remember their service.
My grandmother told me once that a soul is not at rest when the body leaves this world violently or ‘before it’s time’. I think of that each and every time I see a cross on the side of the road. I think of the soul that lost their ‘life’ in that very place and I want to let them know someone is thinking of them.
I have never actually admitted to anyone that I do this. Maybe over the years my husband has noticed, or a friend has wondered but now the cat is out of the bag. When I see these crosses, I feel the pain of the family and friends who erected it and left those mementos behind. I wonder how they feel driving by them on the way to work or school. I am sure it never gets easier, it never goes away.
I hope all these souls will be or are at peace. The spiritual aspect of the soul, to me, surpasses the religious aspect of the soul’s life and death. The soul is eternal. Now when you drive by one of these crosses on I90 or the Taconic or any highway or turnpike please send a positive thought, say a prayer or take a moment to realize the gifts in your own life. Life is indeed so fragile and those crosses remind me of this every time I pass them.