Archive for October, 2011

The Cross

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011


A local boy was killed – suddenly, instantly, and tragically – when his car was broadsided by another vehicle at a rural intersection near where I live. That was almost a year ago. November. It seems to me that this cold, dark month always brings some heartbreak or another. I’ve often thought about this. It’s the time of dying. The brightness of January’s new year has diminished like the last bit of a fire expiring. Just remove the “v,” and the month could more accurately be named No-ember.

Anyway, the father of this unfortunate boy, taken from life before even reaching 30 years of age, is someone I know, indirectly. Friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend type of situation. I feel utter compassion for him, not even daring to try to imagine what I would be going through if this were one of my daughters. Some things are just too horrible to ponder.

Soon after the accident, a large, flower-embellished cross was erected at the intersection, directly in view of all motorists making that same turn. A warning: be careful driving right now! It was a lovely cross at first, a bright display of beauty; but at that spot on the embankment, it was doomed to evoke only visions of catastrophe, and emotions of sadness and loss.

Stories of the accident swirled about the community for a short time, the flowered cross an ever-present reminder. But naturally, as the weeks passed, the flowers adorning the cross wilted, faded, and browned. Within a couple months, the cross itself appeared extinguished, like death compounding death. It took on a macabre aspect in its pronounced display of lifelessness.

And I began to be somewhat distracted at that intersection as my imagination – I suppose – conjured a sense that the young man’s restless spirit remained at that spot, incensed at being forced to flee his earthly body so soon. One black night, I was stopped there with my car headlights directly illuminating the cross. Mesmerized by the heavy aura, I myself almost made the turn too soon in front of an oncoming vehicle. My heart pounded and I could feel the lightening rush of adrenalin shoot up my forearms as I clutched the steering wheel. Did the fitful spirit of the dead boy wish for me a similar fate, so to have company in its anguish?

From then on, I dreaded passing that intersection. I had no choice – it lay between me and a destination I visited frequently. A joyful destination: the house of my lover. But even after six months, seven months, eight months, more – that decrepit cross remained standing, drawing my unwilling attention. I became angry: why was it still there? After all, it was too homely and had been there too long to serve any further as a decent symbol of grief and reverence. It was beginning to look like a sacrilege, a desecration of its intended connotation of Holy sacrifice.

My mind began to plot a sabotage of the heinous object. I would sneak there after dark – with my lover along for moral support, of course – and push the cross into the carved-out stream bed behind it. After all, banishing it from its reign at that intersection could only be doing the unfortunate soul of the dead boy, as well as travelers who had to look upon it regularly, a big service. With it gone, the restless spirit would be free to “cross over” to heavenly peace, instead of being bound to earth by this disrespectful and withered image.

Unfortunately, though – well, perhaps fortunately – my lover was not agreeable to my plan for disposing of the cross. Granting respect to the victim’s family, and avoiding bad karma were two strong points he made about this issue. I admit that the spiritual implications of hurling that cross into the stream bed had already crossed my mind. Would I be eternally haunted by an apparition from the Netherworld – and an infuriated one, no less? Perhaps this was not somewhere I or any human, besides the deceased’s loved ones, of course, should tread.

And so I’ve relented. The cross remains at that spot in all its wasted, skeletal glory; and I try to ignore it as I drive by. It still bothers me, though. Maybe God will send a great storm of wind and rain to lay it down. But its fall won’t be by my hand. Leave the spirits to the spiritual, I suppose. As a mere mortal, perhaps the only thing I should be concerned with is looking carefully for oncoming traffic before I make that turn. Amen.