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…”
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.
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.