I lived in Albany NY for the last nine months and just recently moved back to Boston. In Albany, I designed the bathroom with religious themes, mostly Christian. A 12 inch steel cross, an 8×10 framed doey-eyed Jesus with a bleeding heart, Buddha, the tall saint candles sold next to the Goya brand goods in the “International” section of the supermarket, a photo of the pope and other interesting religious items I cannot recall at this time.
It was a good bathroom. In my recent move, I decided to give most of my stuff back to the thrift store including my religious goods, when my guy suggested that we make a shrine. The apartment was directly across from the Empire State Plaza, the sprawling 6 billion dollar, 10,000 people displacing, modern architecture boasting (including an egg shaped building) Rockefeller monument. We walked over at 6am on the day of our blessed departure with the cross, the candles the picture of Jesus and the produce left in our fridge: 2 stalks of rhubarb, a white onion, a red onion, and a bulb of garlic.
We set it up near a bush, smiled at our Albany shrine and left. We thought it was funny. I mean, it is funny. That was two weeks ago and last night I had to go back to Albany to tie up some loose ends and we went to check on our shrine. We doubted it was still there.
But it was. With a gigantic slug on the rhubarb and two laminated photographs of people that had been murdered and some new candles. I am a bad person. I laughed at first that it was still there and that someone had thought it was real. At least two people thought it was real and were sharing in our pain or devotion or memory or whatever shrines represent. I am a bad person.
Then I wondered why we’ve never gotten into shrines like these. I served my mission in Japan and saw them everywhere. Pictures, flowers, food, favorite things all for their dead. To remember their dead. To please them. I’ve also seen impromptu ones all over New York, Massachusetts, Oklahoma set up to remember and maybe help them get to heaven.
If my brother Sam is to be believed (and I pretty much believe everything, including when he told me that he was the Watcher in the Woods) our dead are very important to us. Why don’t we have things like this? Is it because we remember our dead in our doctrine and ordinances so there is no use for these shrines? Do we think they’re too weird? Are they other gods before our God? Based on false beliefs somehow?
I still think our shrine is pretty funny. And I’m glad it was there for those people to leave those new cards and candles, who desperately don’t want people to forget their loved ones. Plus it’s hard for me to think I’m a bad person for too long.