When my friend Jonathan spoke to me over Spring Break about funeral processions, I didn’t have much to say. He said he was reminded recently of how much he respects the traditions surrounding the procession of cars and how other cars stop on the side of the road to honor them. He himself experienced being in that line when his grandmother passed away and it really taught him a lot. Even though he was a child he remembers what it was like to have strangers stop to honor his grandmother and he reminded himself that he too wants to stop on the side of the road for others when they pass by.
I didn’t have much to say because I didn’t remember ever seeing something like that myself. I couldn’t remember ever being in a procession, though I think I had been as a young child, and I also couldn’t remember ever seeing a procession to stop for myself, even though I’ve been driving a car for five years. I didn’t have much to say, but I told him I thought that sounded very nice and I too wanted to be the kind of person who would stop.
Today I saw such a funeral procession. I noticed first that cars were moving very slowly outside the window on a road that usually has fast traffic, but then I noticed the hearse and the line of cars behind it. There were dozens and dozens of cars, wrapping back around the curve in the road to extend farther than I could see. All the way back they moved slowly up toward me and I stopped everything I was doing. I watched as I saw more and more cars coming and then I looked into the other lane; there were cars stopped all along the road. They had pulled over and were waiting, sitting there in the opposite lane as the procession moved along past them. I sat quietly and listened to the soft silence that seemed to reach out from the speed and noise of before. I could hear the air conditioner hum and the birds outside chirp, but all the cars made no noise. There was no music and there were no voices, just the soft wind and the calm voice in my head.
It wasn’t long before the line became shorter and then the last few cars passed by. The brake lights of the stopped cars were released and they all pulled from the shoulder to go on down the road. Quicker cars moved up now in both lanes and old familiar sounds returned to fill in where only silence was before. I sat there quietly, taking in the last bit of calm and newness, before starting back on my work. It probably hadn’t lasted over two minutes, but it felt like a lot longer. Not only to me, but certainly to those involved in the procession, the change of pace made the day move much slower. Everything I was doing became a little more meaningful and time became a little more precious.
I think we all have moments to reflect on what’s important and chances to act in a respectful way toward what we are given. Today I saw a few dozen people take that opportunity and respect it very carefully, I hope that I might do the same.