In Lovingly Misguided Memory

There are strange strands of thought that I have consistently looped back to for years. Strange wonderments that I can’t escape like the song “Life is a Highway” (and if you claim to know any of the lyrics to that song outside of the chorus, you’re lying, even if you’re Tom Cochrane) that pop up from time to time and dominate my mental landscape. Like bamboo, I can try to tame or remove these thoughts down to the root, but they will come back. Speaking of “Life is a Highway” (I wanna drive it all night long…there, now you definitely share my torment), one of these brain succubi is people who put on the rear window of their car/truck/SUV those giant stickers “In Loving Memory of…”

You've seen these, right?
You’ve seen these, right?

The whole thing baffles me. Yes, I understand we all grieve in our way, but is putting a gaudy declaration of your intention to remember the dead the best way to honor them? “Lorleen, when I die, I want you to dedicate our ’92 Chevy Silverado to me. Don’t pour no beer out or nothin’ that’d be a waste a good beer, but y’all could put a keg in the trunk and maybe go muddin’.  An’ do that like monthly ta keep my memory alive! SILVERADO FOR LIFE AND DEATH!”

Why broadcast it? Mourning is a deeply personal process, so why are you bumming out the car wash people or the frustrated person stuck in traffic behind you. It’s kind of like going to McDonald’s (not an ad, but I will accept money for advertising) and before placing your order, you loudly declare to the cashier and everyone else there that you’re dedicating these 3,000 calories in loving memory of Uncle Billy’s foot that had to get amputated due to his diabetes. None of us want to confront our mortality on the way to work.

Yes, you loved the recently departed, but what happens when that car breaks down or it’s time for a new car? What kind of tribute is that to your dearly dead? Now their ghostly memory is attached to a broken down crap-heap of a car or a discarded $500 trade-in. It would be worse if you saw someone morosely scraping the stickers off the glass. What if just one of the words peels off? Or even a simple bird crap? It would be like getting a shirt with the dead person’s face airbrushed on it and eating a particularly sloppy chili dog on an August day in Florida after running a marathon.

What if that car hits a deer or runs over another person!?! Then that dead person’s soul has more death burdening his/outside the gender binary/her afterlife, or at the very least besmirching their memory which was already limited to that leaky four-cylinder engine, which maybe extends to the tape deck.

Well, first, stop over-populating, but second, are those miscarriage babies? That's a real bummer
Well, first, stop over-populating, but second, are those miscarriage babies in the cloud? That’s a real bummer.

Why “honor” someone’s memory on something with a highly limited life-span? There’s a fly in my house right now, and I am going to name it after the death of all of my dreams. More realistically, I just bought a hamster, whose lifespan is four years, and named her “My Sex Drive” because neither have long for this world. Sure, you can honor your beloved by putting a sticker on a car, or you can name a brine shrimp after them, whichever dulls the pain more. The ephemeral nature of the car sticker bewilders me. Okay, it helps you deal with the loss now, but when you have to get rid of the car/truck/outside the automotive-binary mobile, doesn’t that just open those emotional wounds anew?

Whoa, hold on, I may be wrong. Maybe these are all symbols of the traveling we do on the winding roads that life takes, traffic and all (because life IS a highway)! These stickers are deeper than I ever imagined.

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17 Comments

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  1. Yeahhhh…I find them tacky too, but I mostly see them in the inner city around where I live. And a lot of the ages are pretty young (gang violence and whatnot), so I also find them pretty depressing. Tacky and depressing. Better than a giant awful RIP tattoo?

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  2. When I die, I want to have my name put on a stationary bicycle. That way, people can ride me and get nowhere. Like they do now.

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  3. These memorial window decals must be an American thing because I can tell you for a fact that I have never seen one in Canada. On the other hand, Tom Cochrane is Canadian so we’ve already been punished enough in the “Life is a Highway” department. I never liked that shallow and pretentious song and I still don’t understand why it was a huge mega-hit.

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  4. I’ve never asked anyone about those. They seem to me to be primarily Hispanic phenomena and usually used for people who died before the age of 28.

    One of these days, I’m going to ask somebody to talk about their sticker. Which, obviously, they won’t mind doing, since they put a sticker on their back window about it.

    Myself, I only pay tribute to loved ones on green banana skins.

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  5. Ha!! I remember in 2001, ever car had a memorial and a never forget sticker. All these years later they are only on Junkers and half pealing. Btw that miscarried baby sticker is just awful!!! It’s also an Italian thing, I think it’s any couture that has a thing for heavy saint worship.

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  6. OMG! I used to live in El Paso Texas and you see this type of crap on mostly all Hispanic low riders. It’s a culture thing having to do with gangs in the barrio.

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  7. No signs, no grave stones, etc., for me….just scatter me to the wind, and let people wonder where I am interred.

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  8. It’s all weird. Remember the whole craze of “Baby on Board. Do not hit.” As if you should ram into them if there’s no baby on board? People are stupid.

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  9. I’ve seen those decals on many cars, and they’ve never had anything to do with a specific culture. In 2001, Dale Earnhardt was killed during a race in Daytona Beach. I couldn’t believe all the people who put “NEVER FORGET” on their cars with his number and a facsimile of his face (and I lived in Maryland at the time). They were grief stricken, but the next weekend they were watching the races again.

    Love,
    Janie

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  10. Amputated parts and removed Organs. . . . Exactly where do they go. I mean they never give them back to the folk who they were removed from so it makes you wonder if there is a huge pile of parts somewhere, a bit like old pens.

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  11. abeerfortheshower May 24, 2015 — 12:27 pm

    My neighbor actually has one of those covering the entire rear window of her SUV, commemorating her 5 year old child that died. And contrary to Katy’s statement, it’s actually a 45 year old white woman. And it’s awkward. Like, I’ll be out in the driveway doing something to my car, and I’ll see her out there in her driveway vacuuming the seats of her SUV, and I’ll wave and then just duck back into my engine bay and pretend she doesn’t exist. Because that sticker will be facing me front and center and I don’t want to stare at it. Besides, what do I say? “So… your kid died, huh? Well, that sure sucks.”

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  12. The irony may well be that the driver behind the vehicle advertising someone’s death gets close enough to have a good read. The driver with the deathly advert slams on their brakes, the driver behind crashes into the vehicle with the deathly advert, flies though their own windshield and the rear window of the car with the deathly advert and die amongst the smashed deathly advert…..

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  13. What I think is weird about them is it puts that person in a state of perpetual mourning. Like, they might be happily driving down the highway, thinking of the awesome party they are going to that night or about the new job they just got, but when I see their car, all I feel is sad and think, ‘well what the heck are they smlling about? Their loved one died 4 years ago!’

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