One of Many Shrines

I have a tendency to attack idols. Not too long ago Abel Keogh, the first widowed blogger I found on my first search just after my loss, advised a woman that her widower fiancee was "not ready to move on" because he had not yet dismantled the shrines to his late wife installed in his home. Ridiculous, I thought. There are good reasons for keeping visuals with the memories. And anyway, it’s rude to display family photos outside of intimate spaces in your home. I consulted important Miss Manners entries (Advice columns? Are those like blogs?) and drafted a forceful reply.

Then I looked around. Oy vey, are there shrines. Disrespectful as I am, I also pay obeisance to the vague spirit I’d like to have round me. Our old, tiny apartment had a milagro heart on every door frame in thanks for Gavin's surviving open heart surgery and its complications; those tin shapes are hung in this home too. And when he was very, very ill I did put together several shrines, even though none of them included his image until he died.

Here’s one that I set up next to the dresser mirror:
-- A thrift store porcelain saucer (in Japanese, cranes are often used on wedding kimono because they mate for life).
-- A blue and green glass heart paperweight, not my style, but heck, a heart.
-- One of Gavin’s many Ganeshes.
-- Two stones from our yard, which I saw as male and female: one, half grey, half white; the second, red and ochre, porous, with a hole in the top so you can see that it’s hollow.
-- A shrinky dink necklace I made for Gavin’s 55th birthday party: “55, still alive.” We gave these out, red or green cords assigned you to a team, and we planned to play “Survivor”-style games. More than 100 people showed up, the barbeque was about 8 pizzas worth of calories short, so we managed to judge the sculpture contest segment before we decided to just hang loose.

On the other of the mirror was a similar niche holding a virgin sculpture (from Oaxacan honeymoon), something paper, perhaps a ticket stub, and Milagros for whatever parts needed healing at the time (kidneys, heart, arm). After he died, I carefully stuck his boy scout compass there to help me find balance, or North or something. It's all packed up now for the move.

It makes you think about people's homes and faiths: how many shrinelets do folks really have in their homes? I'm always kind of spiritual, and as a UU I have room for pagan object faith, but if Abel Keogh addressed it, is it really that common -- not just a special spot for family pictures but a little haven for the household Gods?

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Vanessa said...

I don't know if it's a shrine as such, but on a bookshelf in my living room, I have a bronze crucifix and a small wooden chest that holds my husband's personal things, his wallet and glasses and iPod and MedicAlert bracelet. No one else would know what's in it, but I know.

Roads said...

Perhaps surprisingly, I'm partly with Abel on this one -- at least inasfar as I think that the public display of (too much) memorabilia is disrespectful of your new partner and will cause unnecessary tension.

Like Vanessa, and like you I have my stuff (and far too much of it, at that) which I just won't (can't?) let go, but I don't keep it out front of house.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Roads, I should probably have made my conclusion clearer: Abel has a point, as reluctant as I am to admit it. My literal baggage is definitely a huge annoyance for Mr. Fresh, but it's been easy to write off because long ago we "knew that we were moving."

I still think it's just generally tacky to have personal memorabilia all over the public parts of the house (even though I do it).

Gavin was an artist and the same rules apply to hanging your own work: you're not supposed to do it. It makes your house look like a store. It's just wrong.

But we gave in when we bought our own place. Now that he's my "late husband," those pieces are okay now (and we'll definitely hang some in the new house -- my choices this time!).



Abel said...


To be clear: I only object to shrines/memorials once the widow/widower has entered into a serious relationship with someone else. I think taking them down is part of the process of moving on and making room in your heart for someone else. For me the process of taking down the photos and other things once I become committed to Marathon Girl really helped with the process of starting over with her.

Shrines/memorials in the home are the biggest complaint I get in my inbox week after week from women dating widowers. It makes them feel like they’re competing with a ghost and the widower isn’t ready to move on.

(Full disclosure: though pretty much everything that could memorialize my late wife is packed up in a box, I have a shelf full of her favorite books in my library/office. It’s kind of like your late husband’s paintings hanging around the house.)


Supa Dupa Fresh said...


In my case, with all the art and living with our small daughter, we had SO MANY shrine-like things that I thought my many, many lovers (two) should respect the huge amount I'd already cleared.

But asking Mr. Fresh how it's been to live here for the past year, now that we are moving out... I have to say I agree with you.

Thanks for visiting, I'm grateful to have found your blog what seems like a thousand years ago. You really provided me with a lot of hope.




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