Ghost bike

I took the time today to stop and photograph this “ghost bike” memorial. I have passed it on the way to work for two years now, and finally figured out how and where to stop. Isn’t that the secret? Noticing, studying, planning? Making time to see things that you would miss otherwise.


The text reads “In memory of Michael Alexander Rivas who was killed while bicycling on May 16, 2012. by a distracted texter-driver who did not suffer any consequences for his actions. Texting and driving is against the law but is unenforceable.”

This is at 28th St. and Old Hickory Boulevard, in Old Hickory, TN, a suburb of Nashville.

I had initially tried to share information about this using Google maps, but the images weren’t that good for such a small thing. The first view is from March 2016, and the second is from December 2016.


The March 2016 images of this area were taken in a car travelling North on OHB, while the December ones were taken in a car travelling South.  This bike does not show up clearly in the March images, and is too far away in the December ones.  So I knew I had to do this myself.

I had to study what landmarks were there before the bike, so I could stop before it and walk to it.  I needed a place to park my car – I couldn’t do it on OHB itself – too busy.  Also, there were usually many cars behind me, so even slowing down to turn off the road was often difficult.  Today was the day – I’d prepared, and there wasn’t much traffic.  I also had left my home with a little extra time.

I did a little research online and found this from the blog of Genea Barnes, who has driven all over the US to photograph and document ghost bikes.  She says there is only one in Nashville. This is it.

“The ghost bike I found was for Michael Rivas at 28th and Old Hickory St. After I had shot the bike, I noticed a woman changing the water that the flowers were in. I stopped and chatted with her for a few moments. She had known Michael, said he was around 30 years old, and she told me that his parents lived right around the corner if I wanted to go knock on their door. I chose not to, I felt it could be intrusive. I gave her my card, and she said if she saw them, that she would pass it along.”

Here is his obituary from the Tennessean newspaper:

RIVAS, Michael Alexander Age 31 of Old Hickory, passed away on Thursday, May 17, 2012 as the result of a tragic accident. Services to celebrate Michael’s life will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 20, 2012 in the Chapel of Spring Hill Funeral Home, conducted by Pastor Keith Enko. Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and from noon until service time on Sunday. Interment will be in Spring Hill Cemetery. Memorials are suggested to the Emmanuel Lutheran Church Building Fund. Online condolences and memories can be shared with the family at Michael was born on August 17, 1980 in Nashville, the son of Dr. Alejandro and Beverly Ann (Branson) Rivas. He was a member of the Emmanuel Lutheran Church. He graduated from Donelson Christian Academy and Middle Tennessee State University. Michael had worked in several restaurants. Michael was a very kind, loving and giving person who loved and was devoted to his family. He will be missed by all that were blessed to have known him. Surviving are his loving family, including his parents, Alex and Bev of Old Hickory; brother, Christopher and his wife Margaret Rivas of Mt. Juliet; grandmother, Mary Branson of Old Hickory; the light of his life were his niece and nephew, Emma Grace Rivas and Carter David Rivas. He is also survived by his extended family and a host of friends. Michael was greeted in Heaven by his maternal grandfather and paternal grandparents.

Here is his picture –


From his condolence book:

May 22, 2012 | Nashville, TN

I worked with Michael at the Davidson County Election Commission. I fondly remember how he always had a smile and and upbeat attitude, everyday. When I think of him and his smile, he always made me laugh. I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.”  Carlatina Hampton

There were many other notes, but this one talked about him as a person, instead of just how sorry they were for the loss.  I wanted to gain a picture of who he was. A memorial should show the person, not just the name and dates.

He lived at 3215 Lakeshore Drive, Old Hickory.  This is about 5 blocks away from where the bike memorial is.



The house was bought 8-1-1981 for $90K but now appraises at $541K.  It is a one-story stucco house built in 1960 and is 3,146 square feet, with 4 bedrooms and three baths.  The land it is on is .87 acres and it has the lake to its back.

Here is information about his father –


Dr. Alejandro Rivas is a surgeon in Nashville, Tennessee. He received his medical degree from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and has been in practice for 47 years.  He works for the Otolaryngology department of Vanderbilt University at 1215 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37232.  According to WebMD, he also sees patients at his home Monday – Friday 8-3.  Here is the phone number (615) 847-4949, and here is the fax (615) 847-5396.  He is affiliated with Tri-Star Skyline hospital and Vanderbilt.  He is 72 years old, which means that he was around 36 when his son was born.  He accepts multiple forms on insurance, and has a 5 star rating on “Healthgrades”

Michael’s mother, Beverly Ann (Branson) Rivas was born  03/02/1951 and is 66, which means she was 30 when Michael died.  She is listed as a Republican.

Their marriage was announced in the Sunday, November 9th 1975 edition of the Decatur, Illinois Herald.

BRANSON-RIVAS Beverly Ann Branson became the bride of Dr. Alejandro A. Rivas in a Saturday afternoon ceremony at Pilgrim Lutheran Church. A reception followed at Cresthaven Country Club. The bride is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rick Calhoun Branson of 2480 W. Olive St. The groom is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Cesar Rivas of Rivas, Nicaragua. The new Mrs. Rivas is a graduate of MacArthur High School, Decatur School of Practical . Nursing and Parkland College. She is employed by St. Mary’s Hospital. Dr. Rivas is a graduate of National Institute Rosendo Lopez in Nicaragua and the University of Mexico Medical School in Mexico City. He is a resident (of) general surgery at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. The couple will make their home at 704 Berry Rd. in Nashville.

Roadside memorial


Another roadside memorial.  This is at an intersection on Gallatin Road, in Madison, TN (part of Nashville).  They are everywhere.  This one’s front cannot be viewed from this angle, which makes it all the more mysterious.  The front faces Gallatin, and that is a very busy road.  There is no way someone would be able to read it from there, zipping along on the road.  There isn’t a stop sign there.  This is in a between place.


There is a small metal tag attached to the top – it looks like one for a motorcycle.  The front looks like it is painted red. I kind of wish I’d gotten out of the car to look at it up close.

These memorials raise more questions than answers for me.

Who is this for?  Did s/he die here?  Is it to warn others that this is a dangerous intersection?

Did the person who placed it get permission to put this here?  Is this public property? Does this mean anybody can post whatever they want here?

How long will it stay? Forever?

When did this trend start, to memorialize the dead where they died?

When will it stop?  Why do I want it to stop?

Will it spill out and go everywhere – one at the desk of the person who died at work?  One on the sidewalk for the person who had a heart attack while walking her dog?

Why is it OK to celebrate grief in random places?

Why has a private feeling become public, yet anonymous?

Why am I so uncomfortable with this?  Why do I think it is low-class, gauche, tacky?

Why are they always Christian crosses – do Buddhists and Jews and Muslims and Hindus not die in traffic accidents too?  Do their families not care?  Or do they just know how to contain their grief in better ways?

Why is a graveyard better?  Why is hiding away grief better?

Are these to be seen as “memento mori” signs – reminders that you will die, that life is fleeting?


Pretty little corner

Is it possible to miss a place more than a person? It is acceptable to say that the garden is more beautiful than the gardener? The creator made the creation. Surely the beauty of it is a reflection of the beauty of the one who made it.

I once was part of a debate on an artist page, where a customer was dismayed to see that so many artists used their art as their profile pictures instead of a head shot. He wanted to see what the person looked like. I commented that the outside of the person is arbitrary. We have little control over that. But what a person makes, their art, comes from the inside. That is their true face. That is what they truly look like.

I am coming to realize that there are things in my life that I will never see again. They pass, or change, or go away before I realize it. The moment is gone. The chance to really notice it is over, and will never happen again. Places that I loved as a child, that I spent a lot of time in, are no longer available to me. People move, or die, or stop being friends. Places burn down, or get remodeled. Change is the only constant.

Here is a picture of the garden at a family friend’s house. I found this online, after realizing that I could never go there again. They’d moved to assisted living and sold the house. The husband had grown too frail, too ill with Parkinson’s.


We’d spent a lot of time at their house when I was growing up, and after my parents died I visited monthly. The couple here were like extra parents to me, but that has changed. He has died, and she has grown distant. The mourning is many layered.

He was from Iran, but long enough ago that it was called Persia. His name was Mohammed Hosein Rafiee (pronounced Raff-ee-ee) but was sometimes called “Joe”. He was a metalurgist at Combustion engineering. She is named Ellen, and they were married longer than I have been alive. Sometimes I think they stayed together out of habit or inertia. Sometimes I think the house is what kept them together. Neither wanted to leave it.

This is a photo of him that I got from the obituary that was online. Why had I not taken the time to take a good picture of him? I have some, I’m sure, but they are casual snapshots. Why can’t I find them? How did I not know that this was not forever, that he would be gone one day, that everything would be gone?


He called the garden in Persian “Zebah Kenar” – pretty little corner. Ellen made it. He’d designed the house in a very Japanese style, where it wrapped around the garden. Most of the rooms had windows that opened out onto it. In Japan, the symbol for “home” is the the one for “house” plus the one for “garden”. A garden makes a house a home.

Hosein understood this. The soul of the place is the center, the inside, the living part that you work on.

I just found a picture of the garden that I’d taken.

…and after some digging, I found some more. Here are shots of the lovely lantern by the front door.  Almost nobody came in that way, but you had to drive by it to get to the “real” entrance.


The window on the right side is one that Hosein designed and made himself.  He taught himself how to do stained glass work just so he could make the windows for the house.  They do not look like beginner’s efforts.  He chose a difficult design and rose to the occasion.  He never made a stained glass window again after he made the ones he wanted for this house.

I have a fondness for up close pictures and unusual angles.  These were taken near the front door.  The house is very close to the edge of the bluff.  A short walk out the back door and you will fall off a very high sheer cliff face.


Here are some that give you an idea of the shape of the house.  There was a lot of height in the rooms – only a small bit of the height was used for upper rooms.  The living room was quite cathedral-like.


Here is a nice picture of the front door, the lantern, and the windows he made.

I know I have more pictures of the interior.  I’ll add them when I find them.

I found this – from my wedding. The only person I still speak with is my husband. How odd that I thought these people were so important to invite for this event.

and yet more I’ve found, on my husband’s phone.

This was taken on the sly while on a visit a few years back.  This is in the living room.  Hosein is on the right.



The view from their deck.  When they built their home this road didn’t exist  – thus the noise didn’t exist either.


This might be at their house – but then again, it might be at the Choo-Choo.  I wonder what happened to their Koi when they moved?  They surely didn’t take them with them.  Koi live a long time.