JJ spent his first several professional years serving as a funeral director before deciding to teach. Because of his experiences he’s quite sensitive to funeral etiquette and the pieces that make up those days spent actively mourning. He sees how families are treated which most people never question. He takes offense when people don’t stop for the funeral procession to go by – from both a practical and a conceptual perspective, he gets physically agitated with offenders.
I had a chance to talk to my friend whose mother we celebrated and then laid to rest this weekend. We talked about what happens next, if she was planning on working today and how to manage this new way of life. She said, “that’s the hardest thing – the rest of the world just keeps on going.”
Perhaps this is why the funeral procession is such an important act. The waiting traffic doesn’t know anything about the family and friends driving with the little flags on the hood – to them, the train of cars equates to an inconvenience, an excuse for tardiness.
Those riding behind the hearse, however, need that space. They need you to stop. Please. Wait. Because the life at the front of the line was significant. Her absence will change our world. We cannot possibly keep the same pace as the rest of the world while trying to figure out how to live without her.
People remark they don’t know how to help their grieving friends. No amount of words or casseroles will “fix” the problem. We don’t know how to help people in grief. But perhaps one of the best things we can offer is to obey basic traffic laws and apply them to our approach to life with grieving friends.
What we need right now is to keep the processional train together. To make it easy for loved ones to find one another. Let them ride together, without feeling alone. Clear a path for them. Stop, sit to the side and wait.
It’s not convenient, but it’s loving.
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