I was driving north on Monterrey Boulevard, heading toward the intersection of Greenwell Springs Road in the eastern part of Baton Rouge as I have done thousands of times before.
The Monterrey-Greenwell Springs intersection is pretty much nondescript, except during election time. That’s when campaign signs pop up like daisies on the street corners. Some days, there are folks pushing the signs at drivers.
It’s a busy intersection, so it makes a lot of sense to get your word out there.
If you are little hungry and even if you are not, you might pull off before you get to the intersection because you have been lured by the spicy chicken sandwiches of the famous chicken place, or by another notable eatery with the idea it has meals that make little children happy, and older people, too.
But things were different this day. Very different. Straight ahead at the intersection, there was a giant billboard with several smiling people peering right into my windshield. It was definitely an attention-grabber. Not chicken or burgers for me. My attention was straight ahead.
The big sign advertised a funeral home, its convenience and respectful services in your time of grief. Just call the number on the sign or drive by the place if you prefer. The people on the sign looked dignified and professional.
In all the years I have passed this spot, not one sign has made such an impression on me. The usual tenants on the sign have promised to make me rich if I were in a car accident, or they would save me and our city if I helped elect them, or they had a menu that would make my taste buds sing.
While it doesn’t mention it, this sign hit this driver square in the face that COVID-19 is real and there are deadly consequences. I couldn’t help but reflect on the number of friends, the number of people in my city, my state and in this country who have died from COVID-19 and its traveling buddy — underlying health conditions.
There had to be a reason for the timing of that sign and I’m thinking this funeral home is well aware of the clients this pandemic can bring.
That same day, a friend called and asked if I had noticed the large number of churches advertising on social media about their online prayer meetings and services because so many are not meeting live. We agreed that it is one of the consequences of the times and something neither of us had envisioned years ago. We wondered how long it would be before church services or any live-attendance events will be normal again.
We both lamented not being among our congregations, our friends and the culture of our churches. We also pointed out all the other new things, especially working from home, even though I don’t work from home, and how it will be a thing when many big office-style businesses can go back to business.
Yet, while we talked about those things, my mind was still drawn to that giant advertisement alerting riders that we are in a long season of death and despair and that funeral homes can handle our situation with care and love.
I don’t question nor find anything horrible about the sign. It makes sense. I love its positioning because it continues to send the message that our leaders have been trying to drive home for months. In fact, I wish funeral homes would purchase advertising signs across the state forcing some of the car and big-truck accident lawyers off the advertising road.
I have gone out of my way several times in recent days to see that sign. It is both sad and sobering. I hope it is making its intended and unintended mark on people.