Sunday, August 19, 2007

Faith Works 8-25-07
Jeff Gill

Look Out, He’s Gonna Rant

There’s tradition, there’s the law, and then there’s being a decent human being.

I’ll admit any one of the three can be a challenge, and to combine all three calls for a saint. Of which I am a poor example. But.

Last week, I was part of a funeral procession. It was for a grand woman who lived a long life, but sadly only eight years after finishing her college degree. She served this community in more ways than a column could count.

As is usually the case, when the pallbearers had carried her casket to the coach, we all pulled out onto Main Street in procession, lights and blinkers on, with little flags on each vehicle.

Did I mention there was a funeral coach with a casket at the front of the line? Of course I did.

We drove a long stretch of Main Street through town, and up nearly the length of 21st St., and a good bit of Rt. 13.

For all of you who pulled over to the side of the road and stopped, or even just slowed down as you could, edging far aside out of courtesy and respect, I want you to know something. The family and friends of this woman noticed your act, and they appreciated all of you, each one. It was a simple act of kindness that took so little time from your day, but meant a great deal to many of us.

And those who did so were both young and old, hot cars with cool decals, land yachts with bobble head dogs in the back window. Young men with dramatic tattooing noticeable from fifty feet away, and women with two kids in car seats gazing uncomprehendingly out of their minivan. Very little drew all those together, the very large number who showed courtesy to this funeral procession, other than basic human decency.

Then there were a few whom I would like to address, even as I doubt that they read, outside of the words “Open Here” on snack foods and packs of cigs.

Just how indifferent to sorrow and honor do you have to be to pass, on the right, a funeral procession, jouncing along the gravel, in order to turn into a fast food establishment?

What kind of callousness do you evince in your everyday life to force your way through a line of cars with – did I mention? – a casket carried in the hearse just ahead?

Need I mention that these so-called fellow citizens were also spread around the age and income distribution; young and old, wealthy retiree and redneck road warrior. The sourballs came in all flavors.

We who claim faith as a value in our lives may still find idle superstition a cruel handicap. Broken mirrors and Friday the 13th should carry no terrors for anyone who has a coherent belief system.

But do you, who leap out into traffic around dozens of your fellows who have, in fact, pulled over for a funeral, speeding past the hearse and mourners, not have any sense of bad luck, of karma, of big juju, of cosmic paybacks?

What the law says about all this I’ve heard described variously, and the solution to what I’m calling a problem is not more police writing tickets. There may well be no actual violation of the law in some of the shenanigans I saw, and I don’t care. What you need to know when you see a recently deceased person and their family coming at you is “whoa, whoever they are, let’s slow down, pause, stop if we can, take off our hats (I saw guys in cars do that, in fact) or turn on our lights, and remember if only for a moment that this life is fleeting.” For this, there is no law.

What might come in handy, and since I’m thinking insensitive idiots probably don’t read the paper, is if we all agree to start some rumors. If people got the idea that zooming past or weaving through a funeral procession was bad luck; if drivers had heard that passing the hearse on the right meant seven years of never even winning a scratch-off again; if young women thought they’d break out in pimples if they crossed the middle of a line of mourners; if old men got the idea that ignoring other cars in their lane pulling over would lead to their losing their license by going blind . . . that kind of thing just might work.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’s seen pretty much everything go on around a funeral procession, but see if you can surprise him at

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