A few months ago I was driving on a residential street near my parents’ home, and noticed something in the road ahead of me. As my car drew nearer, I realized it was a squirrel: a dead one. Two emotions immediately overtook me – first, I felt sadness for the squirrel, for obvious reasons, but then I felt relief that I hadn’t been the one to run him down because I’ve done that once before, and trust me – it ruined my whole day. Lost in thought about running over squirrels, a sudden movement near my left front tire grabbed my attention. I slowed down to observe another squirrel circling around the lifeless body of the dead one, and pause – with inclined head toward its deceased companion. My eyes, now filled with tears, were glued to these two squirrels, and only an approaching car behind me caused me to leave the scene, but not without watching to the last in my rearview mirror.
Whenever we encountered a funeral procession, Dad always pulled off the road, turned on his own headlights, turned off the radio, and waited. We waited until the very last car in the procession passed, allowing even then a little bit of distance, watching their taillights to the last. If we were on the opposite side of the road, we returned to our normal rate of speed, but if we were traveling in the same direction, we hovered behind the last car – never urging ourselves beyond their company.
As far as I can tell, there are no hard-fast rules about what to do when you see a funeral procession. There certainly isn’t a law that requires you to do anything, but you’re not required to bathe, either. Call me old-fashioned, although I prefer southern, especially since my father’s example is deeply-rooted in the southern tradition, but I believe we should always follow those simple rules of good breeding.
Monday afternoon I was on the other side of the procession – meaning I was part of it. As pensive as I felt while contemplating the proceedings of the funeral service, a quiet inaction on the opposite side of the road brought my attention back to the present. The driver of a white mini-van had pulled off the road, and sat waiting for our procession to pass. Hers was the first of many vehicles pulled over to the side of the road while we slowly made our way, with hazards blinking and bright beams shining, to the cemetery. My eyes, for the first time since the funeral began, filled with tears of gratitude.
It never occurred to me how much my father’s quiet and simple act of respect toward others would impact me the rest of my life. Monday afternoon I finally understood what it means to “mourn with those that mourn.” On behalf of Matthew’s family, thank you to each of you who selflessly gave of your time, allowing his family to mourn their loss and to pass you by in quiet dignity.If you like this post, you can subscribe to receive regular doses of encouragement and inspiration to help you on your way:
Beautiful Arminda. I love it.
Norm Lindsay (alias: Dad) says
Thank you Arminda for your thoughtful remembrance of my lifelong desire to show quiet respect and dignity towards those who mourn. In retrospect, one of the most interesting things that I have learned about fatherhood is that a dad doesn’t usually know when he is teaching.
Wow, I didn’t recognize the power of pulling over and mourning with those that mourn. Very powerful.
Tim Pegram says
You certainly packed a lot of gold into that little essay: acute parallelism, multi-leveled compassion, timely memorialization, connectivity to and preservation of a childhood experience, honor to a parent, etc. Witnessed the same scenario one morning many years ago with a pair of mourning doves, inspiring a poem titled “A Mourning Dove.”
@Christie – Thank you.
@Dad – Thank you for your example.
@Blake – Welcome to the site and thank you for your comment!
@Tim – Thank you for noticing 🙂 My English professor will be so proud.
Arminda, I’m now in tears. Having been a part of too many funeral processions, with losing all of my grandparents, an aunt, uncle and a dear friend, there is something very emotional when you see others stop for just a few minutes out of their busy day to recognize the grief that is in those cars with headlights flashing and a police escort. We won’t all have celebrity funerals with helicopters overhead, but a little bit of respect goes a long way. You don’t get respect, unless you give respect and that happens even in death.
Holly Barrett says
Arminda, beautiful post. I too was raised southern and always pull over for funeral processions. But I’ve never been more impacted than when I’ve been in the family car and seen people pull over for us. Brings tears to my eyes just to remember it.
@Deanna – I love your thought: a little bit of respect does go a long way, even in death.
@Holly – Your personal experience is what I felt, too. Thank you for sharing.
Bill Tanksley says
Whoah…. your blogs are getting way better (no offense to the deceased) but you have an “art” about you… in telling the story. Right here, right now. This is why “AllArminda” can rock on even a bad day.Your’re getting used to the whole “blog” thing, and it works! Talk to you soon.
(And of course, my prayers are for you)
Jamie Marshall says
Arminda, thank you for posting such a great story. It brought me back to when my mother died 10 years ago. Driving to her last resting place I was so touched by those that pulled to the side of the road to let my mother pass. I actually found myself waiving to them in an attempt to say thank you for respecting a person they never knew.
Now when I move over to let a procession go by and my kids ask me why I will be able to say “because we mourn with those that mourn”.
Thanks for sharing.
@Bill – Keep reading! I love it! Your motivation inspires me to write more and I thank you!
@Jamie – I am so glad you shared your own experience. Thank you.