Wedding Woes


Dear Prudence, 
I am about to make an offer on a house. However, this past weekend, unrelated to the property, a teenager died in a car crash that began some yards away and ended on the driveway. I’ve driven past the property several times now, and there is always a small crowd of people, and a roadside memorial is developing (balloons, stuffed animals, candles, crosses, etc.). I have sympathy for this teen’s family and friends, but I find these memorials to be tacky and inappropriate, especially on private property, and I don’t want one at the entrance to my home. My agent thinks it will lessen with time, and I’m sure she’s eager for the sale to happen. I understand what these memorials mean for the grief-stricken, but my own view is that this is what cemeteries are for. Should I go back to square one on the house-hunt, or am I being an irredeemable grouch?

—Get Off My Lawn

The aesthetics of a roadside memorial aside, I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate about commemorating the site of a recent, tragic death. That’s where someone died, and that’s where her friends and family want to acknowledge her passing—it’s not as if she died of old age in a hospital. Her life was cut dramatically short on a public road, and it makes sense that friends and family would acknowledge it outside of a cemetery. It’s only been a few days since the accident; most roadside memorials don’t stay up longer than a few weeks, and there’s no guarantee that if you bought a house elsewhere, no one would ever die in front of it, with all the attendant candles and balloons that might ensue.

Your question, fundamentally, is “Should I buy another house because there are some balloons out front that remind me of death?” I don’t think that’s necessary. I also don’t think you should try to have any of the commemorative objects removed (you don’t ask if you should, but something tells me you would at the least consider doing so). If you were to buy that house, and the memorial remained on the edge of your property for a few days or weeks, you might have the right and the ability to have it removed, but just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should.

Re: Umm...

  • Wow, what an odd thing to be upset about. I agree with Prudie's response.

    But, I do see crosses and other memorials set up long term here. But they're not huge and there's no balloons or anything for more than a few weeks. I can't see how a small memorial that the family enjoys would be that upsetting for a homeowner.

    Image result for someecard betting someone half your shit youll love them forever
  • Oooh I like that, OOM.
    Image result for someecard betting someone half your shit youll love them forever
  • I don't know that I would walk away from the house.  You would probably have no grounds to get your earnest money back.  So for that reason, I would keep going forward with the sale.

    If this were my front yard, I would leave everything up for a few months, then try to contact the family.  Ask that in exchange for removal of the items at the memorial a tree or plant could be planted in their memory, with a small plaque.  This would help clean up the front yard and provide some solace for the family.

    I think that's a very sweet gesture and it would be a nice memorial.  Or rather than a tree, I would ask if the teen had a favorite type of flower and plant it in that area and design a garden around that flower.  If it was an annual I'd replant it each year.

    Chances are that the teen's family and friends will only be placing flowers and objects in that spot on the anniversary of the accident- so once a year.  The homeowner should leave it up for a week or so, then remove it.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."

  • Do her future potential neighbors with a heart a favor - walk away from that house and buy into a condo association whose rules are such that you can't even have a lawn chair outside..  She sounds like she'd be a peach to live next to!
  • I'd personally find a memorial very depressing. Not to start out, but if I knew it would happen at the beginning of every spring...I wouldn't go so far as to say it would effect my SAD, but it would definite be a downer just when I want to start putting out the yard furniture and gardening. 

    Not to say she should walk away from the house, but just another viewpoint. 
  • I would definitely find a way to get in touch with the family and ask if they would like the things that have been left as part of the memorial.  If they say yes, she hands them over and they're gone; if they say no, then I think she can get rid of them with a clear conscience.
  • edited April 2016
    I had to comment on this because it hit really close to home. In 1997, my brother's best friend was hit by a car and killed right down the street from his house. I was 17 at the time, and my brother and his friends were 13-15 years old. It was a huge loss that most of us hadn't yet experienced. 

    I personally visited the site of his death often in the first few months. For some reason, I felt more of a connection to that spot than at the cemetery. It was clearly felt by many others too, because the spot for a while had many flowers, letters, etc. I'd say after about 6 months, people stopped visiting the site as much and stopped leaving things. 

    So, IMO, this woman is being an ass. A child lost his life. People are hurting. If it brings them some comfort to leave a balloon or flowers, who the fuck cares?! It literally just happened. The crowds will eventually stop, as will the mementos. So shut the fuck up about it and let these people grieve. 
  • I think we finally managed to identify one benefit of having a HOA - this removes the responsibility from the home owner. Our HOA wouldn't allow the memorial (it might make it a week) and would require it to be removed. 

    In Pittsburgh, I can think of several areas where there are long term memorials. (typically crosses with flowers - usually updated seasonally or with wear - I'm talking 20-25+ years- since i was a kid.). There are also several in our part of Houston that have been in place since we moved here (5.5 years). 

    Considering the woman won't own the house for at least 30-45 days, it's a bit of a moot point. Once she is the property owner, she can determine if she wants to allow something to stay on the property. It's a nice idea to offer to plant a tree or flowers in that are, but to me that would be going above and beyond. 
  • What, is she afraid the house is haunted?
  • What, is she afraid the house is haunted?
    Nope, just afraid of the "tacky." I can't believe she doesn't have the compassion to let it happen and the perspective to realize it's basically pretty short-term.
  • GBCKGBCK member
    First Anniversary 5 Love Its Name Dropper Combo Breaker
    I do think it's short sighted to assume it's temporary.
    I still drive past where some people I know died the weekend after our HS graduation (yeah, it sucked a lot) and the display is still there and is huge. 
    It's been nearly 20 years now.
    (and by 'huge' I mean 4 signs each 3'x3', plus the rest of the items left)

    And I can still imagine what the reaction would be if someone suggested it be taken down.
  • I have heard of some people being very against these roadside memorials.  I believe the argument is that they are "distracting" to drivers and might cause further accidents (I fear for these drivers that are that easily distracted by things alongside the road - how they survive passing billboards I just don't know).  I recognize that everyone is welcome to an opinion, but people need an outlet to grieve, and a roadside memorial might be just the thing.  I don't know if the LW is actually one of these people who has something against these type or memorials, but it does sound like she is trying to rationalize eventually dismantling it.  
    Offering to plant a permanent tree/plant sounds like a really nice idea, and as a win-win for LW, might increase curb appeal while helping people deal with a tragic loss.

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