Last week, I went to a funeral in Philadelphia. The whole drive was treacherous. It rained the entire way from Northern Virginia to Pennsylvania (and back). Hard. After the funeral, we drove to the West Laurel Hill Cemetery (burial site of Frederick Winslow Taylor, Richard Binder, Edward Julius Berwind, John Thompson Dorrance, Herman Haupt, Joseph E. Widener, Joseph N. Pew, Jr., and Louis J. Magill).
I was a bit confused about how we were proceeding from the church to the cemetery, so I ended up at the very end of the funeral procession. As soon as it began, I was appalled. Someone tried to cut off the car in front of me as it was leaving the church parking lot. I mean, really? They had waited for 20 other cars but then didn't want to let the last two go? How does that make sense?
Every single intersection was full of anxiety as Philadelphia drivers cut into the procession, honked at us for driving through a red light, or generally didn't know how to handle life in case of a funeral. By the time we arrived at the burial plot, I was a bundle of nerves.
Today, the Washington Post has a story headlined "Respect for the dead wanes when funeral processions hit insane Washington traffic." We learn that two people have been killed and 23 injured this year in funeral processions. I think they include that stat to make you think things are bad, but it's actually a remarkably low number given what I saw last Tuesday.
But the metric shouldn't really be about deaths or injuries, but rather simple respect. We are a people who view our lives as so important that we can't wait 30 seconds for a funeral procession to pass.
I've noticed the same problem in Washington, D.C., with emergency vehicles. It is almost unfathomable to me, but people here don't get out of the way for ambulances and fire trucks.
In any case, while I would hope stories such as this would cause people to reflect on their behavior, I think the more standard American response was well put by the commenter to the Washington Post story:
Yes, why not end the practice of funeral processions? What did the dead ever do for us anyway? Is there a better encapsulation of the spirit of the age?
Cemetery image via Shutterstock.