I was almost run over on the way to work this morning. I had pulled over to let a funeral procession pass and the person following too closely behind me was apparently attending his cell phone conversation more than his driving. He narrowly avoided ploughing into me as he swerved and jerked by, middle finger extended on his phone hand. He managed to drop the phone long enough to blow the horn a few hard times and gesticulate wildly before he passed out of sight.
Way back when I was first learning to drive, I was taught to stop for funeral processions, and I still do to this day, unless I'm on a road where I absolutely can't. Of those who still know about this old tradition, I'd guess that most don't practice it anymore, believing it belongs to another time or place. I understand this--certainly the speed of our lives has increased exponentially and the speed of our transit has, too. It's not always the smartest thing to do, or the safest. I went through a phase where I talked myself out of doing it for a few years, even when I was safely able. But I came back to it. It's not about whether I knew or respected the deceased as a person. It's not that I don't have a sense of urgency about where I go and how fast I get there now that I'm not in the military rat race anymore. I do, probably more so now than then. It's not that I've developed more patience than I once had. I can't claim a highminded embrace of all that binds us together. I lose patience with the indigent population of Petersburg at least twice a day. I see this as simply stopping for just a minute and recognizing that there passes someone who shared the earth with me--who loved and laughed and changed his little corner of the world in one way or another. I guess when it comes down to it, it's a nod to my own mortality, and a moment taken to reflect on how I can live a little bit better. Because even for those who can't stop for death, it WILL eventually stop for us.