[Getting ahead for summer vacation time! Pax, jbg]
Faith Works 6-13-15
So many important people, so little time
Snark is not my natural rhythm, and I don't really want to get proficient at it, as a Christian, a pastor, or a person.
Sometimes, though, it's the only response I can think of.
Because I do marvel at just how many important, critically needed, vitally significant people live here in Licking County. Maybe there are this many people on a mission elsewhere, but I can only report on what I bemusedly witness.
I refer to the fact that a significant number of our fellow residents are engaged in activities through the day that make it impossible for them to slow, let alone stop for a funeral procession. They are so in demand that it is incumbent upon many of our friends and neighbors to swerve in and out of lines of cars, all with lights on and those charming little orange or purple flags magnetically attached to each of them atop the roof, making it clear this is not just a bunch of people following each other to find their next stop, but something different.
The funeral coach with the coffin in it at the front of the line is kind of a dead give away.
Honestly, I'm being snarky because it's better than being unpleasant, but I have to admit to having a few unpleasant thoughts as I see fellow Licking Countians zoom out to cut off a family in grief, following their loved one's remains, almost not slowing in time to avoid a collision with someone who clearly cannot be expected to arrive at their destination two minutes later (and that's an overestimation, in my experience).
Passing on the left in a multi-lane context is legal, if tacky (if tacky is the right word); passing a funeral procession on the right, especially when it's on the shoulder – c'mon. Seriously.
If you see a funeral procession coming towards you on a two-lane road, turn on your lights, ease over, and where you safely can, come to a stop until the last car or truck with flags and lights on passes you. If it's a four lane, at least get over, no? And four lane divided highways certainly don't require oncoming traffic to stop, but I'd commend a gentle slowing and that acknowledging salute of your lights on as a simple message to the family and friends in the cortege that you see, you acknowledge, you understand.
If you're coming up behind a procession on a road, two, four, divided, whatever: think carefully about why or whether you think you should pass these people. They've almost without exception just been to a memorial service for someone they care about, at a church or funeral home, and are now going to a cemetery or mausoleum or sacred place of some sort to conduct the wrenching act of leaving there the earthly remains of that person they are mourning.
Do you really have to zip past them? You can keep your eyes fixed straight ahead, certainly communicating clearly your indifference to their plight; you can try to guiltily glance and jerkily nod your head, especially to the next of kin in the first few vehicles, and the funeral director and clergy in the lead coach, which really makes everyone feel uncomfortable.
Honestly, I don't want to say you should never, under any circumstance, along every type of roadway, ever pass a funeral procession. But you surely should always ask yourself "is this pass necessary?"
Or you might end up like the benighted, agitated tool who leapt around a long line of cars at the first opportunity on a two lane, curving rural road, and of course couldn't pass the entire procession before an oncoming truck forced them back over and now into the sad parade. Where they were stuck until the turn-off for the cemetery. Good job!
Snark aside, I'd like to close with this. Those of you who stop when you could have sped up, who slide onto the shoulder and stop and take off a cap when the hearse goes by, who turn on headlights and nod even three lanes over as oncoming traffic along a highway: to all of you, I want you to know that the family notices, and appreciates the gesture. They really do; on a hard day, it means something gentle and warm and real, even if they can't quite see your face and will never know who you are.
But they know what you did, and it means something to them.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's ridden in quite a few hearses lately. Tell him your funeral procession story at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.