Certain heroes and heroines don't get monuments. Many of the ordinary rank-and-file Civil Rights Movement activists, for example, didn't get monuments built in their honor.
Environmentalists who've fought bravely for a safer and cleaner world don't get them either. And don't expect any of the wonderful folks who are resisting the excesses of our neo-Gilded Age - the concentration of wealth, the unchecked power of corporations, the allegiance between politics and special interest groups - to have any monuments dedicated to them.
And then, of course, there are those tireless advocates for animals who should also be honored with statues - the men and women and children who have fought tirelessly for the voiceless.
One of those kind souls - sadly, no longer with us - was Edward Gardner. Gardner was only 38 when he was struck and killed by a limousine while trying to rescue a group of ducklings as they tried to cross the busy Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) in Illinois. It happened on Memorial Day, May 30, 2011.
Remember that name.
By all accounts, Gardner loved life. And he loved animals. Those who knew him said that he would go out of his way to help animals. To him, all life was precious. All life had meaning. Gardner was not one to simply talk the talk from the comfort of his home, either.
When Gardner's close friend Jim Gollwitzer heard about the terrible tragedy, he focused on the act of compassion rather than the man's death. "That's totally Ed," he said. "That's how big of a heart he had." Gollwitzer told the Chicago Tribune that Gardner used to volunteer on his summer vacations at a wolf sanctuary in New Mexico. "He cared about animals. It was one of the passions of his life." (Source)
Gardner also loved cars. He spent years fixing up his 1960 Chevrolet Parkwood. He loved going to car shows, being a part of the community, sharing stories with his fellow muscle car enthusiasts.
Clearly, Edward Gardner was a man in love with life. He died in the prime of life, struck down while trying to help ducklings.
Jim Gollwitzer completely understood why Gardner sacrificed his life to help ducklings. Because Gardner was someone who believed in the sanctity of life. Not just human life - all lives. He didn't hesitate to help the ducklings. And if he had it to do all over again, Gardner would not hesitate for a second to do what had to be done.
There probably won't ever be any monuments to Edward Gardner. No statues. No fountains. No plaques. No park benches bearing his name.
Those of us who love animals and see a touch of the divine in all living beings owe it to Gardner to build a monument to him in our own minds.
The first step in doing this is to always remember his name.
Edward Gardner. He died much too young, but his was a noble death. May we always remember his courageous sacrifice. May his love of life continue on in the actions of we, the living.
There are many ways to create monuments. Sometimes the greatest monument is not forgetting.