Pile-Ups to Honor a Death

Aug 27, 2009 | 0 comments

With Senator Ted Kennedy’s recent death, the oral tributes are pouring out over the news media and Internet. Another interesting phenomenon is also happening: Bostonians paying their respects by bringing flowers, candles, cards, pictures and other stuff to leave at the gates of the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.

This phenomenon is nothing new – we saw it for Michael Jackson’s death at various places where he lived, we saw it all over New York City after 9-11, we see it in our own towns when there are tragic deaths and people feel a need to express themselves. The Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. receives a steady stream of flags, photos, letters, flowers and other things which are gathered up every day and stored somewhere for posterity.

The largest outpouring of this type that I remember was after Princess Diana’s death on August 31, 1997. It’s hard to believe 12 years have gone by since then – the anniversary is coming up on Monday. I wonder what happened to all that stuff that was piled up in ad hoc memorials outside Kensington Palace and other places.

These are spontaneous expressions of feelings for people we may not know personally. It’s not something that funeral planning usually takes into account. You can pull together mementos from a loved one’s life for your own personal memorial display. But unless your loved one was especially famous, people won’t be leaving tributes at your gate.

So, how about you? Ever left something at a public memorial pile-up? Why and how did you feel after you left your tribute?

A Good Goodbye