Jill and I made a pilgrimage to New Mexico recently. We get away annually at the beginning of February to celebrate our anniversary. Last year, our 20th, we spent close to home, at a bed and breakfast (The Grateful Bed) in Chico. It was our last “happy” memory. A few short days after we returned we got the news that Rachel had been killed.
We chose New Mexico this year for several reasons: first, we had always wanted to visit Santa Fe - everyone we know who has been there (mostly artists themselves) rave about the amazing art that can be seen there. And the adobe. And the sky...Everything we heard was true - and more. We weren’t adequately prepared for the food...If you go there, bring your appetites!
Secondly, we wanted to visit the Memorial of Perpetual Tears, recently opened in Moriarty, New Mexico, to honor victims of DWI traffic fatalities. Maribeth Robison, my aunt, and her husband, Jim, just “happen” to live around the corner from the memorial site. Maribeth volunteers there creating beautiful memorial pages for an on-site book of remembrance.
The Memorial sits just off Interstate 40 between Albuquerque and points east. It was the vision and labor of love of Sonja Britton whose beloved son, Monty, was killed by a drunk driver in 1991. Since 1994, Sonja has been working to realize her dream of dedicating a memorial to the victims of DWI, a place to honor, to remember, and to heal. With the help of local and state legislators, dedicated donors, and volunteers, the Memorial of Perpetual Tears serves as a constant reminder to drivers traveling the Interstate of the tragic and irreversible consequences of choosing to drink and drive. While the Memorial was originally conceived to honor New Mexican victims, Sonja’s vision couldn’t stop there. She dreams of a National Monument on site. The only thing keeping her from realizing that dream is money...
Jill and I recently attended a lecture by Terry Tempest Williams where she discussed her new book “Finding Beauty In A Broken World,” which describes her journey to Rwanda to make mosaics with the victims and survivors of the genocidal horrors that occurred there in 1994. It was a symbolic, but very real, healing act, to create something of beauty out of the broken shards scattered around them. I was reminded of this when Jill and I stood and talked to Sonja in the newly opened visitor’s center at the Memorial of Perpetual Tears. There, in the middle of the floor is an inlaid tile mosaic depicting a tear.
It is a strange and twisted set of circumstances that brought us to the site of the Memorial of Perpetual Tears on February 7, 2009. Needless to say, we wouldn’t have been there except for the twisted set of circumstances that led to the event of February 21, 2008, the day Rachel’s life was taken by a drunk driver. We would give anything for Rachel’s life and for our lives to have made our trip to the Memorial of Perpetual Tears inconceivable. But this is the real shape of our lives. Our hope now, as Sonja Britton has done, is to make some beauty out of the brokenness.