The family and I were traveling north on U.S. Highway 45 on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and we were anxious to get home.
I spotted a police car in the opposite lane, and made sure I was below the speed limit. No problem.
Then I realized the police car led a steady stream of cars with their lights on, so I pulled over.
“Why’d we stop?” my daughter said.
“There’s a funeral,” I said. “We stopped to show our respect.”
I silently offered my support to the family and friends of the recently deceased, and thought back to other, more personal funeral processions.
Another car about 400 yards in front of us also stopped, but that was the only one I noticed. The rest of the holiday travelers zoomed on their busy way.
It was shocking because I’d never seen that many drivers fail to stop for a funeral procession.
In my experience, most folks pull over to the side of the road. Usually, you can forgive the few who keep driving by assuming they’re in their own little worlds and didn’t notice the police car or the hearse or the long line of slow-moving vehicles.
I’ve been in a few of those sad processions. Not as a guest of honor, of course, but as a mourner with raw emotions. I appreciated the men and women in the opposite lane who took a few minutes out of the day to recognize my family’s grief.
And how much time are we talking about here? Five or ten minutes, tops. Often, it’s less than that.
Nearly 20 years ago, I had a delivery job in the Atlanta area, where I encountered a funeral procession on a sunny afternoon.
A whole crowd of cars stopped without even pulling to the side of the road. That seemed strange to me, but I was willing to go with the local custom, as long as the driver behind me agreed to the plan.
There weren’t any accidents, and traffic got moving quickly enough for my deliveries.
But I’ll always remember the woman in the car in front of me who was puzzled by her fellow drivers. She looked from side to side, then angrily lifted her arms, as if to say, “What’s going on?”
Maybe she was late for a job interview. Maybe she had a child at the hospital. Maybe she’d never been told that it was right and proper to stop.
I don’t know her story, or the stories of the numerous drivers who whizzed by on Sunday, but I’ll bet most could’ve waited five minutes.
And what a valuable five minutes it could’ve been.
I can’t begin to imagine all of the unintended insults I’ve inflicted over the years.
Then comes a random chance to offer my good wishes to a group of suffering people.
One might not cancel out the other, but who knows how such accounts are kept?
I feel sorry for those terribly busy drivers who missed the rare moment to acknowledge Death and Grief, and to offer respect for Life.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal entertainment writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.