Religion, Death, and the Afterlife: The Death of Derek Sheldon

derek sheldon roadside memorial 4

As many of you know, Polly and I travel the highways and byways of northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana, and southeast Michigan looking for photography opportunities. I have developed an interest in how we as Americans — particularly Midwesterners — memorialize life and death.  Of special interest is the various means religious people use to remember the dead. This interest might seem odd for someone who is an atheist, but I am attracted to roadside memorials and cemeteries. From time to time, I plan to share a few of the photographs I’ve shot while stalking death.

I shot these photographs at a roadside memorial for the late Derek Sheldon.

derek sheldon roadside memorial

derek sheldon roadside memorial 2

Derek Sheldon, a senior student at Elmwood High School in Bloomdale, Ohio, was tragically killed in an automobile accident on October 1, 2015. According to the Sentinel-Tribune:

Derek Arthur Sheldon, 17 of Bloomdale passed away on October 1, 2015, near Bloomdale.

He was born in Findlay on October 3, 1997, to William and Kimberly (Workman) Sheldon and they survive.

….

Derek was a senior at Elmwood High School where he played basketball and baseball. He was a member of the honor society, loved working with younger children during summer baseball, and enjoyed sports of any kind.

While I find roadside memorials psychologically and sociologically interesting, death at such a young age is always tragic.

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. ObstacleChick

    It is incredibly tragic when a young person dies.

    Reply
  2. Dave O

    I’ve wanted to document the memorials I see. I find death psychologically and sociologically interesting too.

    Reply
  3. Troy

    I’m glad you’ve found some joy (or interest) in these memorials. I’ve always disliked them intensely. I don’t understand why people need to mark the location of an accident that killed someone. It is interesting psychologically possibly. By returning and decorating the site, possibly they feel like they can be with them when they tragically died?

    My (step) father died last year, my mother lamented the way that life doesn’t miss a beat, the world goes on like nothing happened. Possibly these memorials address that need in people?

    Reply
    1. Stephanie

      Yes….I don’t see how folks want to make memorials of places where someone has died and be reminded of it when passed. I’d rather see a memorial somewhere that made the person happy. It’s too depressing to me to see it riding by.

      Reply
      1. Troy

        Yes I agree, though obviously I can’t begin to understand their grief. I’m reminded a bit of some of Carl Sagan’s “Shadow of our forgotten ancestors” Where Sagan mentions that certain primates will carry around a dead infant for 3 or 4 days before finally putting it down.

        Reply
    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      For me, I’m just trying to understand the why and need for such memorials. No judgment, just an honest attempt at understanding the psychological and emotional needs that drive people to put up memorials.

      Reply

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