I was driving to work the other day on 31 and I was somewhere around Pennington when I saw a sad thing. Someone had placed a small roadside memorial near an intersection. I was struck by how new it looked and noted it had not been there last week. I was also struck by that one word.


Roadside memorial
Jeff Deminski photo

People have complained about roadside memorials. Legislators have acted to make them illegal unless you pay money for a more formal state sanctioned one. (Of course they’d want money) I’ve heard people call them tacky.

Just my opinion obviously, but you know what I find tacky? Whining about someone else’s grief.

Unless the entire landscape becomes littered with memorials it doesn’t seem to me to be that much of a distraction. The fact that they jump out at us at all is evidence that they’re rare enough. Some call them eyesores. People say they can cause an accident. Honestly I’d say they can be a solid reminder that accidents can happen here and to slow down yourself thus preventing accidents.

I was responsible for a roadside memorial once so I think I might understand what motivates people. A former in-law was struck and killed by a car on 81-South in another state late at night when hitchhiking. It was one of the saddest things to think about a loved one dying on a lonely stretch of highway where everything feels so cold and transient. I went with his sister to a flower shop in town and bought a few bouquets. We climbed the hillside along 81 together and placed them there. It was just a small gesture to let the world know someone was loved who made it no farther than this place. It was just a way to say they were here. If you haven’t lost someone in a car accident it’s probably hard to understand.

If 2020 has taught us anything it should be that there are far bigger things to worry about than one family’s grief displayed in a small memorial at the side of a road.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.

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