Brenda’s Dumpster

November 2013

I stopped mid-run today to photograph this decal I saw on a construction dumpster. It says, “In loving memory of Brenda Something.” It’s not something you see every day. I considered it for a moment, and my first thought was: a dumpster with a dead person’s name on it strongly suggests that the dead person’s body had, at some point, been IN the dumpster. More specifically, the corpse was disposed of in it. Maybe accidentally. Or maybe she was a victim of foul play, and someone clandestinely put her there in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness.

The dumpster decal idea, no matter how well-intentioned, is just too weird to succeed as a memorial. I didn’t have firsthand confirmation, but I was 99% sure Brenda was never in the dumpster, contrary to what I (and others with similarly honed logic) might infer. The dates on the decal indicate she died at age 52, which is genuinely tragic. She obviously had people who loved her, missed her and wanted to do something special in her memory, which is touching and reflects well on her life.

My guess is that Brenda was the founder or a beloved employee of the waste disposal company. Her co-workers must’ve cared a lot about her. She must have been a truly nice person. But still, I’ve never before seen a death announcement sticker on a dumpster  — or any other waste removal equipment — so to me, there will always be that very-low-probability but nagging thought that Name on Dumpster = Body Disposal in Dumpster, not to mention the possibility of pre-disposal murder and dismemberment.

I wonder about the meeting where they came up with the idea to make the Brenda decals. “What can we do to honor Brenda?” the meeting leader asks. Silence. Everyone looks around, but nobody speaks. More silence. Then a man in the back of the room stands up, but then shakes his head and sits back down. (Since it’s my fantasy meeting, I’m naming him Cleve. He’s 60-ish and skinny with a gray mustache. He’s dressed in worn jeans, a trucker hat, a faded plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and big, slightly-brown-tinted eyeglasses.) The crowd urges Cleve to share his idea. He protests, but finally stands up again. In a twangy Southern accent, he says, “Um, we could have some nice stickers printed up with Brenda’s name on ’em, and stick ’em on our dumpsters.” No one replies, and no one else has any suggestions. They decide to give it a few days, to see if anyone comes up with something else — anything else. No one does, so the decals go to print.

I don’t mean to disparage or disrespect Brenda at all. I just think the whole thing raises strange questions, the answers to which don’t necessarily honor Brenda the way I think they meant to. The total lack of context invites wild speculation, which in my case is grotesquely, irredeemably, inappropriate-hysterical-laughter-while-kneeling-in-front-of-the-casket funny.

I’m sorry if this offends anyone. If you’re offended, I think you should ask yourself what Brenda would do. I bet Brenda had a good sense of humor. I bet she was the salt of the earth, had a sweet disposition, and would’ve laughed at the idea that someone thought her body had been in the dumpster. I bet she wouldn’t judge me like you’re doing now. If you’re still alive when I kick the bucket, you can get back at me by suggesting that my kids print up a bunch of memorial dumpster decals for me.

RIP Brenda – maybe we’ll meet on the high ground, out back, by the big dumpster in the sky.

©NLWalsh, All rights reserved.

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