Death Used Balloons to Remind Me of Love

The other day I was vegging out in my PJs watching my favorite TV show, when I suddenly heard this loud explosion, like a large object hitting the bottom of an empty dumpster. The next day was garbage day, and I knew some of my neighbors had recent home improvement projects that required industrial-sized dumpsters, so I didn’t think anything of it and continued watching my show. Soon after, my brother stopped by to join me, and as we were getting into one of the episodes, I noticed lights flashing across the living room walls. With a slight frown creasing his forehead, my brother got up from the couch and walked over to peek out of the windows set into the top of my front door.

Then calmly and quietly, he said, “Well, we’re part of a crime scene.”

I vaulted off the couch to stand beside him and was shocked to see crime scene tape strung from our front porch down to the street, then across the street and around the trees in our neighbors’ yards, transforming my driveway and the intersection just feet from my house into a scene out of CSI. Several police cars were parked nearby, lights flashing, and a deputy was walking up the front porch steps with a notepad in hand.

There’d been a shooting. No industrial dumpsters. No garbage day preparations. Someone had been shot. Fatally. Mere feet from where I was standing. Looking out again across the street, it dawned on me that I was looking at a homicide investigation.

My hands began to shake.

I felt light-headed.

Flashbacks of that explosion rang through my head, and I began to wonder what I would have seen had I gotten up at that moment to look out the window. Would I have seen the murderer? Would I have seen the person who had been shot?

Death had been on my street, and for the first time in my two years of living in Rockford, I felt afraid. What if I had been out walking my dog? What if my parents had stopped by to say hello? What if one of my friends who lived nearby had gone out for a walk? Could that have been one of us?

Later I found out it was a 24-year-old man. Just 24. Two years younger than I am. No matter the circumstances of the shooting, a young man lost his life.

Please note: Out of respect for the family of the deceased, this is NOT a photo of the real memorial.

The next day, the street was quiet. The crime scene tape was gone. There were no more flashing lights. No police officers canvassing the neighborhood. Just an empty street. And some balloons and flowers on the street corner.

I stood at the end of my driveway for a moment, just watching those balloons dance and sway in the cool early evening breeze, and I thought of my family. I thought of all of the people in my life who meant something to me. Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m not necessarily a religious person, but I took a moment to pray for their safety because the thought of those balloons and flowers being for any of them was crushing. It’s almost too much to think about, but I’m asking all of you to take a moment to think about how devastating it would be to lose any person in your life who means anything to you.

I know sometimes we get mad at the people we love. We let life get in the way of staying in touch. We let petty things come between us. So I’m asking you all to put all of that aside for just this one moment to think about what you would do if those balloons and flowers represented someone you knew. Then call that person. Or send them a text. Write up a quick email. Post on their facebook wall. Just let them know you’re thinking about them and that they mean something to you.

Because you never know when you could be saying your last words to them.

Love and a stranger’s balloons,



~ by Mika Doyle on November 11, 2010.

2 Responses to “Death Used Balloons to Remind Me of Love”

  1. Wow, Mika. What an emotional few days for you…thanks for writing so beautifully on a violent event.

    • Thanks, Tricia. It definitely was an emotional few days. It’s still hard to look at that memorial. There’s something new there every day — candles over the weekend and even a small basketball hoop this morning. It really makes you stop and think about who you may have taken for granted recently.

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