“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile.” Mark Twain (1835-1910) “Thank you, Crystal, for making everyone around you that much more happier. You shined, and that did not go unnoticed.” Online Tribute “Life is too short and this proves it, he hadn’t even lived his life yet.” Accident Witness
It was 2:25 on the morning of February 5th 2012 when two vehicles were driving in opposite directions going down one of the main streets that passes through my town. One vehicle was a green van with three teenaged boys, the other a Honda Civic with three young women. For reasons not important to this story they crashed head-on and the accident took the lives of 16 year-old Dawson Spencer and 18 year-old Crystal Weaver. I know this because a make-shift garden now stands in the place where they both died. It sits in front of an old, time-worn fence that hasn’t been painted for years. Perhaps that is why the brightly coloured flowers, most of which are artificial, seem so out of place…like they don’t really belong here. It is an unlikely place for two young people to have lost their lives, but I suppose that none of us gets to choose the spot where we take our last breath. I had read the story of this tragic loss in the local newspaper and had driven by the memorial many times on the way to work, but I didn’t actually stop to look until I found it completely abandoned one day. In past I had seen dozens of people gathered around that fence, but it is April now and those days are gone – all that remains are the memories and the ephemera of better days strewn upon the ground. One can find personal photos, a plaster angel, poems, a hand-carved bench, toys and even a plastic tiara…each item has a personal significance, each serves to console those left behind, ordinary people left to deal with the palpable grief of a sudden loss. This is a garden borne of sorrow and as such, it will one day no longer be needed. When that time comes, friends and family will instead cling to those happier memories and the bitterness of reality can be left here, in this roadside memorial. The unkept grass, dandelions and blackberries already springing to life will soon cover most of it. Over time, fewer and fewer people will visit and one day a sheepish city worker will no doubt load all of it into the back of a truck and take it away. But that won’t mean that these two young people are forgotten, it will just be the time when this garden of sorrows has simply served its purpose and that those of us left behind have healed enough to go on living without Dawson and Crystal. That said, I’ve decided to post their garden here on the internet, where it can live just a little bit longer.