Friday, February 09, 2007

Respect for the Dead

A few years ago, I read an article somewhere that said car manufacturers were considering changing how the lighting system on cars worked. That when the vehicle was on, the headlights would be on as well. It's a safety issue they said. Drivers don't turn on their lights when they're supposed to, like when it rains, or when it's dark - so the manufacturers were going to make sure the lights were ALWAYS on. In Europe, Volvo already does that. Wallys don't blink.

So, how would you know when a funeral was going by?

I don't know how it is in Europe, or even in other parts of the country, but here in the South, time stops when a funeral passes. It's like a reminder that for some, time doesn't exist anymore - and for others, a small amount of time can be an eternity. When you see the flash of the police motorcycle and a line of cars with headlights on, you pull over and wait, paying your respects to the unknown deceased as they and their mourners pass you by. And you're grateful, at least a little, that you're not the one in that procession. As the last headlit car goes by, you resume your life.

At least, that's how it used to be. Police escorts, headlights, and the stoppage of time.

Funeral Elvis Funeral Elvis Hearse
Yes, Nikki - this is Elvis' funeral procession.

Today, I was returning to work from lunch, when a big van with yellow lights on top came up over the bridge. He flashed his lights a couple of times and went by me. What was that? Is there a speed trap on the other side of the bridge? Then came another van, lights on, full of plants. Then a hearse. Oh. A funeral.

I stopped my car, and the cars behind me stopped as well, and we waited while a bizzare assortment of vehicles passed us by. Two of the headlit cars were actually trucks towing what looked like race cars. Were they actually part of the procession? Or did they turn on their lights and join the parade just so they wouldn't have to stop?

I was considering my initial confusion, which was only added to by the strange procession when I realized that there was no police escort. Fairly recently, the city and the county decided that having a police escort for a funeral was not practical. That those officers should be out fighting crime or writing tickets instead. So left to their own devices, the funeral homes appear to have come up with the flashing lights on a lead van.

Sorry guys. It's not enough. It wasn't until the hearse was passing me by that I realized what was going on. A plain white van just doesn't say funeral to me. Even with the flashing lights that made it look more like it belonged to the power company or a mobile home moving outfit. You need to at least paint the word "funeral" on the front of the van and/or have your logo somewhere in evidence.

It was unsettling. And it goes against the grain. Are we just a step away from not acknowledging death as it passes us by now? First the headlights, then the police, and now the generic vans. The dead just don't get much respect anymore...

6 comments:

quinn said...

I hadn't thought of it like that I suppose...

Here in canada...all new vehicles for the last few years have standard running lights...meaning as soon as you turn them on the lights come on..not as high as regular but on..

The reason is safety..I understand how you can view the perspective on the respect for the dead .....but..look at it this way...

With the "running lights" you can see a vehicle comming on a two lane stretch of highway alot farther off in the distance.. you can distinguish an on comming vehicle alot more clearly during dusk and dawn..which is the most dangerous time for accidents due to the lighting...

Remember years ago people did not work the types of hours that people do now.with all kinds of shift work.. more people are traveling in low lighting conditions and most traveling farther distances.. improving visability ..lowers vehicular deaths....

It is respect for ..human life...that we have "running lights" on vehicles....to lessen those amounts of funerals due to someone being killed while driving on one of those dimly light roads...

Just thought I would ad the other side of the coin situation...

I also did not know that the vehicles in the states did not come equipped with "running lights"..

Sayre said...

Actually, I wouldn't mind if car headlights were automatically on. I have had many near-accidents due to people not having lights on and not being able to see them. Unfortunately, most drivers think that if THEY can see, they don't need their lights. Lots of dead people result from that train of thought ever year, I'm sure.

I guess that my actual point is that if we're supposed to stop for a funeral and pay our respects, then there needs to be some sort of KNOWN protocol for announcing that a funeral procession is indeed in progress. There hasn't been any "announcements" in the news papers or TV news that lets you know stuff like this (to my knowledge - and I read the paper everyday).

How do they handle it in Canada?

quinn said...

They put 2 flags on the front corners of the lead vehicle..and I believe the vehicles that have the family in them have one flag on front drivers side ......they attach under the hood and that holds them in place..

the other cars do not have anything...

ablondeblogger said...

I was at a stop light one time when my light turned green. But the other cars kept going. I threw up my hands in anger like, "What the hell is going on," and then I realized it was a funeral procession. I felt so stupid.

Alice in Wonderbread said...

yeah, they are still supposed to use the flags. When my grandma passed away we all had flags.

Thoughtful insight, Sayre. Processions make me pull over and pause with the surviving mourners in my heart.

nikki said...

ELVIS! ELVIS!
(now that I've gottern that out of my system....)

A good friend of mine grandfather passed away in a small town. As we were driving to the cemetary, all vehicles stopped and pulled over for the procession to go by. A few even stepped out of their cars and bowed their heads. It was awa inspiring to say the least.