Sunday, February 24, 2008

Funeral Processions


After getting an e-mail from Karie about a funeral procession that honored a fallen serviceman, Spc. James M. Kiehl, I decided to take Kristen's advice (read it under the comments from my lemon post) and I googled the story. (Thank you for the forward Karie, I loved it)


I mostly googled it because I thought that the story was so sweet, I had to know if it was really true. Is there still such humanity in the world? According to the forwarded e-mail, it occurred in TN, and I wanted to be so honored to be surrounded by these good people.


Here is what I read about on Snopes. (an amazing site where you can check the origins of internet garble) So, the touching story is true. Spc. James M. Kiehl was killed in action, and the people of his hometown really gave him a true hero's goodbye. The community members lined the streets from the service to the cemetery, standing in total silence with their hands on their hearts and waving flags.

I would like to add my personal moment of silence in thanking Spc. James M. Kiehl for his ultimate sacrifice. How can one put in words the true gratitude they feel for their freedom that is won every day from the sacrifice of another family's son/husband/brother/father?


Now, I would like to tear into the person who saw it fit to change the original e-mail. (which I am sure was not Karie) The part that so perplexes me was this sentence: "There is a lot to be said for growing up in a small town in Tennessee." (compare this sentence to the original from the link above - "There is a lot to be said for growing up in a small town in TX") This story didn't take place in TN, but in TX. Why would anyone really feel the need to put their own state in there? As if this story wasn't just as good if it happened in TX. I think that sometimes Tennesseans have a little bit of an inferiority complex. Can't we all just be happy that the good people of TX can honor a man as good, if not better than us?


I know that the people of TX honored this man better than I did some person who was buried in Kingsport a few years ago. After reading Laura's recent post about Southern traditions, I was reminded that I am not totally Southern. In fact, after I tell you the following story, you may wonder if my husband is either.


The first thing that came to mind after reading Laura's post that if to be truly Southern, you have to appreciate the lack of sidewalks, I will never be Southern. I so miss sidewalks. In California people actually get out and walk, just for fun. You can't do that here without worrying that someone will run you right over.


The other thing that Laura mentioned about being Southern is the ability to stop on the side of the road for any funeral procession. So, (Alice, focus, off soapbox, back to story) years ago LG and I decided to sneak away and catch a movie. It was a last minute decision and we found that a movie we wanted to watch was starting in just 15 minutes. It takes 10 minutes to drive from my in-laws to the theatre. We said goodbye to the fam and ran off. My in-laws live out in the country and you have to pass a cemetery on the way.


We were cruising along, glad to make it to the movie on time, when all of the sudden, we spotted a funeral procession ahead. There was a line of about 30 cars. Lucky for us, they were just turning into the cemetery, and they were lined up on the opposite side of the street. We thought and discussed that because they were so close to pulling in, we would be safe to just keep on our merry way. We thought very wrong. The front car (the hearse) decided that he needed to teach us a lesson. He yanked the wheel as to spin his car out in front of us while simultaneously flipping us the bird.


All I could think about was the poor deceased soul in back of the hearse. The decease's driver seemed more concerned about these strangers on their way to what would be their only date in months than the person who may just come tumbling out of the back when he jerked the car like he did.


Now, you can all call me insensitive. And, LG and I both may need some lessons on funeral etiquette, but really, I don't expect anyone to stop or get out of the way of the car that is taking me to my resting place. I especially hope that the driver of my hearse won't pull out any offensive gestures in front of my posterity. Really, what good would it have done for us to just stop there? Did all of these people expect us to just stop in our tracks as they all so very SLOWLY pulled into the cemetery? It's not like we needed to get out of their way.

I very much respect the deceased. May they all rest in peace! I have even volunteered beautifying cemeteries before, multiple times. I just don't think that we have to pull off on the side of the road to show respect, and that, my brothers and sisters, makes me a Westerner. It is just so hard to give up that fast paced life sometimes. Really, when I am dead in a casket, I truly hope that strangers to me will go on living their lives as usual....especially if it means they don't have to miss the previews!
And the quote of the day: You are alive. So live. ~ Tomi Miyasaki

7 comments:

The P*dunc's said...

One day, Dallin and I decided to walk to YW's. It's a 30 min walk, we almost died due to the lack of sidewalks. We haven't done it since.

Anonymous said...

Alice, Alice, Alice....

In your funeral procession/hot movie date etiquette story you talk about the deceased and his or her feelings, (he or she are presumably at a different plane at that point) but you fail to mention, or seemingly to consider, the family and friends of the deceased.

If you had actually been present in person to observe the more recent TX funeral procession, and some unfortunate soul had deigned to cross its path and delay its progress for even a moment, even YOU with your western ways might have felt such an act of cluelessness lacked something in the way of proper respect for the dead.

A funeral procession, if I'm not mistaken, is designed to inspire awe in the populace, what with the realization of one's own mortality and all. We take pains to get the heck out of its way and let it pass un-disturbed, for fear that we might be found in the hearse the next time one comes by.

As for the driver of the hearse, his reaction was as understandable as it was crass and crude. Just think, he is used to being the "leader" of an awe-inspiring congregation of mourners in the midst of a ritual full of solemn dignity. Any challenge to his vast powers is met with instant, unmitigated incredulity and rage....think of Barney Fife being put in charge of something and you may understand his predicament.

Besides, in that long ago time of your movie date, was there not such a thing as previews? What were you actually going to miss by being "late" to a movie?

(not a criticism, just an observation)

The ever observant,

Richard Anderson

Alice Wills Gold said...

And again I am commenting on my own blog!

Richard, Richard, Richard, I knew that someone was bound to give me a good discplined lecture for my heartless actions. I am so glad that it was you. :) I always consider your observations or criticism an honor...because, this means that you are actually reading my blog, and that you are moved enough with whatever emotion I've caused, to actually comment!

FYI - if I was in TX during this soldier's procession, I would have been clued in with the rest of the community and I would have obliged to the wonderful outpouring of support.

FYI#2 - Just so that you don't think that I am totally heartless, at the time of my rude actions, I was not totally aware of the extent of expectations from total strangers when they run in to a procesion.

I may never zip through a funeral procession again, but living in the South, this may mean I give up some serious living time. It seems we have a lot of funeral processions.

I truly would consider it a privilege that if you outlive me, you rebel against my funeral procession with a parade of your own....proving to my children that life does actually go on!

Cruze said...

What the heck? I have never in my life heard of any sort of etiquette that says you pull over and stop when you see a funeral procession. Is it like pulling over to the right when you see an emergency vehicle? I don't get it. I'm trying to picture your situation and I'm lost as to why you would stop? Often enough when it's on a back road, I see out of place people actually in the funeral procession. Now that, I have enough sense not to do.

Whitaker Family said...

That's just it... for the most part the world doesn't stop when you lose a loved one. The world just keeps going. I never knew that this was a Southern tradition, but I think it's a good one others should adopt because it is respectful. I'm not big on the whole funeral scene at all,(who is, right) but I know when my grandmother died I was touched most by the respect others showed when we drove to her graveside services. For me it was as if they were saying, this person was special/important to someone. I thought of how beautiful my grandmother was and how classy she was and anyone would have been fortunate to know her.
Alice, I like to think you would appreciate this gesture when your day comes. :) People who never knew you and the great person you are/were :) will take the time to stop, perhaps to show your girls that you were important.

Ok, so I read the other comments after writing my own and think Richard's comments were right on. Is that Bro. Anderson? Anyhow... I love that you find humor in all things Alice.

Cynthia said...

We have been late to movies, school and ball games. (at least later than we should have been) while waiting for funeral processions.

It is a strange custom, but I was informed that until a few years ago they (Tennesseans) used to sit next to the casket at the funeral home all day and all night until they put the body in the ground. So I think that is even more bizarre than the stop on the road and wait thing.

I don't even go to funeral. I told my husband he is in deep doo doo if he has a funeral for me. Just have the Mennonites build a pine box, stick me in teh ground and take teh kids/grandkids for a fun family trip to Nauvuoo.

I am wierd like that. I'm not giving him a funeral either. I can't stand for people to be in my face when I am experiencing any emotion.

Renee said...

We totally have sidewalks in our Tennessee neighborhood! On both sides no less.

I don't think it's just a southern thing to pull over for a procession... maybe it's just a weird Utah/western thing to not understand that peice of driving etiquette.

How do these people get your blog address and how do they have so much time to leave these book size comments? I'm so jealous.