Grand Devotion

It is fitting that I take today, Mother’s Day, to tell you about something that has been on my mind for some time. This is a story of devotion–in this case to the memory of a mother–that is manifested in tangible form as a small shrine on the corner of Grotto and Grand Avenue, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

For more than a year, passers-by to that intersection might notice flowers affixed to a stop sign opposite Highgrove Community Credit Union on Grand. The only hint of the object of this touching public declaration of emotion is, the last time I looked, a flower display at the foot of the stop sign reading simply "Mom."

The sign tells passers-by the Who and Where but not the How, When and Why of this act of devotion.

I can fill in two-thirds of the story only because my office used to be located very near that corner. I was at work the day that gave rise to this grand devotion. I don’t recall the date but I believe it was during the Spring and I believe it was a little more than a year ago that an elderly woman was run over by a dump truck at the intersection of Grotto and Grand.

She apparently was crossing the street at the same time as the dump truck, got caught in the truck’s blind spot so the driver couldn’t see her, and was not quick enough to save herself once she realized her danger. Our office windows look out over the intersection and though I did not see the accident, I did see the aftermath.

The flowers appeared on the stop sign shortly thereafter. Though I no longer work near Grotto and Grand, I have occassion to regularly visit that intersection and during every visit, I glance at the stop sign and during every visit, I see flowers, and it never fails to move me. Had I not known the story behind the flowers, they would probably simply be an odd and unexpected detail of city life.

But, armed as I am with this knowledge, those flowers become not merely objects that have arrested my attention, but leave me, even today, amazed at the depth and power of human emotions, of sorrow, loss, and devotion.

For the record: I took my own mother out to lunch today.

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