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Simple Southern courtesy brings comfort in grief

There’s one unspoken rule of the road, at least here in the South, that doesn’t always get a lot of credit for how amazing it is.

That is: Pull over when you find yourself in the presence of a funeral procession.

As noted in a Southern Living magazine article, rules surrounding funeral processions vary dramatically from state to state and city to city. In Alabama, for example, there are no rules governing funeral processions at all, although there is a law specific to Birmingham.

But we don’t need a law telling us to show respect.

Encountering a funeral procession, and subsequently pulling over to the side of the road, can feel inconsequential. It can also be frustrating – if, for example, you’re in a hurry to reach your destination.

It is also, however, surprisingly comforting when you are on the receiving end.

We lost my grandmother in early fall 2020 and my grandfather two months later. I can’t even communicate the emotional turmoil it brought to our family.

Amidst the many shows of support that came from all directions during that season, I – for one – did not overlook the way complete strangers took a minute to share in our grief on the days we buried each of them in the ground.

As we traveled through town from the funeral home to the cemetery, I watched as car after car slowly veered off the road and put it in park as our string of vehicles passed by. It’s a little thing, overall – but in that moment of sorrow, it really meant something to me. I could really feel the hearts of so many, who didn’t even know me or anyone in my family, going out to us in our time of loss.

“We see you. We feel for you. We pause here for a moment in solidarity with you as you prepare to lay your loved one to rest.”

They probably weren’t all thinking along those lines. Some of them, probably, were just trying to watch for the end of the line so they could be on their merry way.

Others, though, were certainly taking that moment for a simple show of sympathy.

It’s a gesture I won’t soon forget.

Next time you see a funeral procession, and you pull over for it to pass by, know that the bereaved see your support. It does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

And the next time you face a loss yourself, I hope cars line the road as you travel to your loved one’s final resting place, reminding you that your pain is felt far beyond what you might think.

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