It's no surprise that people have passionate opinions about the roadside memorials that dot Sonoma County.
These remembrances are a public airing of private grief, and invite reflection and comment.
We invited Press Democrat readers to offer their opinions in reaction to a story by Staff Writer Derek J. Moore about roadside memorials that have been carted away recently by an unknown person or persons.
Are they fitting tributes, or eyesores? Are they distracting to drivers, or reminders to be safe on the road?
What, if anything, should be done about them?
More than 100 readers responded in e-mails, or in online forums on pressdemocrat.com.
Here are some of your thoughts:
"I UNDERSTAND that some prefer to have these roadside memorials maintained as a reminder to others. We felt that it would only serve as a point for vandalism and decay and we could not endure that.
"I did not want my son's memory to serve as a painful ongoing reminder of the evils of speeding and alcohol. Perhaps selfish in my feelings, but I couldn't handle it."
-- Benita Jeppson, mother
of Daniel Stephens, 20, who died in a crash in Santa Rosa in April 2005
"IT'S HARD ENOUGH to lose a loved one, but it's kind of comforting in a way to pass the site and see the flowers, etc., that many people leave behind.
"I speak for my whole family when I say that I'm grateful that the business where the accident occurred allowed my family and friends to leave tributes and such."
-- Jimmy Pineda, Ukiah,
whose nephew and three of his
friends died in a 2005 car crash
"I FIND THE roadside death shrines to be morbidly offensive, horribly gross, and visually insulting. Those who elevate these scenes of life-ending trauma into places of worship are hugely insensitive to those of us who must suffer the repeated reminder and mental image of violence and gore as it occurred during the moment of a loved one's death.
"Personally, I don't know why anyone would want to constantly remind me of their loved one in that kind of context."
-- Mark Patty, Windsor
"WE ALL NEED to grieve and deal with our losses in different ways. If going to the site helps a grieving relative -- without causing anyone else danger because of the location of the parked vehicle or whatever -- I lean on the side of grace. It's got to be difficult to have a family member die in an accident. Why add to anyone's burden?"
-- Michelle Ule, Santa Rosa
"I DROVE BY a memorial south of Sebastopol on Highway 116 for several years. I often found myself saddened -- saddened for people I did not know, seeing raw grief and pain displayed there on the side of the road. Each life has enough pain of its own, I'd think, and I found myself wishing the family would pick an anniversary and take the memorial down so I would no longer have to share a stranger's sorrow."
-- Karen Jones, Sebastopol
"IT IS GETTING to the point that if you go to a cemetery, the flowers or remembrances that you have left are often taken by vandals. I know because it has happened to my husband's grave. I say, please, leave the roadside memorials alone so that I can say a prayer for those that have lost their lives to drunken drivers."