May 14, 2014 — Anyone encountering a funeral procession for the first time will never forget it.
A police car with flashing lights is followed by a hearse carrying a coffin and behind that is a string of cars and an occasional truck.
Family members of the deceased usually ride in a limousine. Other relatives and friends trail behind in personal vehicles.
Those from outside the South usually ask locals why they should stop to allow the cortege to slowly pass.
In some states, in fact, funeral processions must be given the right of way at intersections.
I remember as a young boy asking my mother why we pulled over for a funeral procession.
She said it was a tradition, a show of respect for someone who died, even if we didn't know them.
That conversation came back to me many years later as we solemnly escorted Mom to her final resting place.
I recall feeling gratitude that other motorists stopped to be respectful of her death and to symbolically express condolences to those of us who were grieving.
I have driven in several funeral processions over the years and have seen that same reaction with others struggling to accept the death of a loved one.
Some say this tradition is out of place in today’s fast paced society with overcrowded streets and highways.
Highway safety statistics even include the number of accidents related to funeral processions, including fatalities.
Others believe too few of us seem to care about what happens to each other, even death.
Many say they simply don’t have time to pay their respects by stopping their vehicle.
To those who would disrespect the dead by disrupting a funeral procession, I remind them that they, too, someday will face these prophetic words of the poet John Donne:
“And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”