I recently took part in a funeral service for a deceased life-member of the volunteer fire department. In fact, he was the first junior member and longest serving member in their history. Because he gave so much to his community, the family wanted to be intentional in the way they honored this - especially in the time traveling from the funeral home to the cemetery, about fifteen minutes away.
The oldest grandsons stood at attention atop the firetruck leading the processional. We slowly drove through the streets of a sleepy town, past the fire department where the man had served for sixty-three years. There were firefighters in their gear, standing at attention as a sign of respect for the family as well.
Then things went a bit sideways.
In order to get from the fire station to the cemetery, we had to enter onto a busier street. We had a processional of two fire trucks flanking about forty cars - headlights and four-way flashers on. And I saw something I had never witnessed before - cars cutting into the funeral procession.
Now, I have a bit of grace for this type of behavior when there is a processional on a major highway, especially because cars need to be able to enter and exit. But on a normal, busy street. No.
I think what set me off the most was the person who cut into the processional to hastily get to a staudium where a game wasn’t even being played that day.
I am someone who tries to rationalize the behavior of people in order to excuse it. I found myself thinking that maybe it was a stadium worker who was going to be late for their shift. But even that could not quell my feelings. Because the truth is, that we have lost respect for the funeral processional.
While we may teach people in drivers ed not to interrupt the funeral processional, we are characteristically, too impatient to live into this.
But the way that we cut into the funeral processional is also symptomatic of the greater degree that we treat grief in American society - wanting it to go faster so another persons grief is not an incovneice to us.
We need to honor the inconvience of the processional line because grief matters. The finitude of life matters. And death will come for us all. Therefore, as we bear witness to each other’s humanness, we need to be interrupted as a sign of respect for life and for death.
Michelle is a Spiritual Director and End of Life Doula. She is the founder of Abide in the Spirit.
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