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Drivers need to proceed with courtesy for funerals


November 6, 2017

Because I Could Not Stop

for Death

Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,

And I had put away

My labor, and my leisure too,

For his civility.

We passed the school where children played,

Their lessons scarcely done;

We passed the fields of gazing grain,

We passed the setting sun.

— By Emily Dickinson

This article has been long in coming. In fact, too long. It concerns a tradition that we have had in our community for as long as I can remember. Yet, I fear that we are getting away from this practice. I am speaking of the funeral procession from the church or funeral home most often to Highland Cemetery.

For generations, good manners have been a manifestation of why our community is such a special place to live. For as long as there have been cars, and probably horse and buggies before that, it has been a tradition to pull over to the side of the road and stop, when they see a funeral procession approaching.

There is no law for it, at least no written law. It is just what people with manners do. They do not cut in line. They take turns. When they need something they preface their request with “Please.” They say “Thank you” when help is given. And when a hearse and its train of grief comes slowly into view, lights shining at high noon, they respect the dead and pull over.

I am honored to lead funeral services for those in our community who pass away. Most often following the funeral service I ride to cemetery for the committal service in the hearse funeral coach. For the past few years I have become more and more dismayed at the lack of respect some in our community are giving the funeral procession headed by the hearse containing the casket, followed by the vehicles of family members and loved ones. They see the headlights of the procession and instead of stopping and allowing the procession of mourners to pass by, they dart ahead or across the street.

I appreciate it very much when the Havre Police Department stops traffic on Fifth Avenue and allows the funeral procession to come as one body to transport their precious loved one to his or her final resting place. Thank you to those who pull over to the side of the street on both sides. Bless them, dear God. I ask God to forgive those who dart out in front of the funeral procession “for they know not what they do.” Perhaps if we are too busy to stop and honor the dead — for just a minute — then we are too busy.

Most certainly, this is a problem in many other towns and cities, as well. But I ask, dear ones in our community, that we be different. That we hold in highest regard those that have passed away and we show our concern and compassion for the family and loved ones.

The next time you see a procession of cars on Fifth Avenue turning up Ninth Street with their lights or flashers on, please stop and give them the right of way. If you are so inclined, please say a prayer thanking our Heavenly Father for the one who is being honored and another prayer for the family as they grieve the loss.

Not everyone is going to read this article. If you agree with me, please share your thoughts with your family and two or three friends. Together, we can restore this age old tradition that really truly is meaningful.


Ila McClenahan is the pastoral care and cctivity director for Northern Montana Health Care.


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