While walking my yellow lab, Chloe, through East Park, I noticed some spray painted words on the Winnebago River Trail Bridge. As I got closer I realized that this was not what you might consider ordinary vandalism.
Though faded, yet still legible are the names Darrion Rambo, Jasmine Barrientes and Zach Graney, along with the letters R.I.P.
The point of this column isn’t to open old wounds or rant about vandalism.
If anything, friends or relatives that happen to walk across that bridge might find their own wounds unexpectedly re-opened by a hastily thought out ‘tribute’ that might be better defined as heartbreak graffiti.
No doubt, the loss of so many young lives in such a short period of time was very difficult for family and friends and that pain was surely felt throughout the entire community.
It was a shared grief, extended even further with the loss of Colby Schmidtke in a car accident that occurred after attending the funeral of Zach Graney.
I had met most of these kids through the children in my own life and they were all great kids; beautiful, energetic and with very unique personalities.
I attended Darrion’s funeral with my nephews and the somberness of seeing so many young people at a funeral is almost overwhelming. The sadness in his Grandfather’s eyes spoke to the pain much more than any words could ever describe.
I’d seen that same look in my father’s eyes when he lost two of his daughters.
Obviously, for some the pain still runs deep but there are better ways to remember your friends although it will require more work on your part.
So if you’re still feeling the pain that deeply and would like to do something more meaningful to honor their memory, try planting a tree or a plant in their name.
Nurture the memory and watch it grow and blossom throughout the years.
Everyone, including Darrion, Jasmine and Zach, might appreciate that gesture much more than simply defacing public property in their name.
You might even be surprised how much better it makes you feel knowing you did something special to give them the respect and remembrance they truly deserve.
Sure it might sound corny, but don’t you think they deserve better than spray paint on a concrete sidewalk that is only destined to fade with time…?