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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Makeshift altars

Enjoy is probably the wrong word, appreciate is probably better. I appreciate make-shift altars that are made on the public site where someone died.

When Barry, my upstairs neighbor, was murdered in May outside of Quizno’s, an altar grew from one candle and a couple roses into a huge collection of candles, flowers, teddy bears, cards, photographs, and information. Magically the candles stayed lit through wind and rain and it was not vandalized. His parents were able to take notes back to Ireland with them after the Chicago funeral, back to the Dublin funeral.

People still leave notes and information there, although the major altar was cleaned up a few weeks after his death. He was shot at that point.

Paul, the homeless man, has also had quite an altar grow up around where he once lived. Luckily, Paul was not murdured–or seems not to have been. It started with one candle and a couple carnations and has grown daily since his death. Nearly 100 votive candles, many bouquets, notes, crosses, and chalked on messages to him. One day when I was walking by, a 12 year old boy was asking people to leave notes of remembrance for him.

My co-workers comment, where were these people before he died. I often noticed people with him and others leaving him food and coffee, but it is true. It is much easier to support a cause after a tragedy than before. I think part of it, is that people realize how quickly they might be forgotten when they die and it scares them. So they are making an extra effort that he is remembered for a few more days. I don’t know how long the property owners will let the altar stay. If it will slowly disappear or if one morning we will walk by clean sidewalk with only a little bit of wax.

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