Time To Mourn – by Rev. Dustin Bartlett

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Rev. Dustin Bartlett. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

Time To Mourn
by Rev. Dustin Bartlett
January 20, 2017

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… a time to mourn, and a time to dance…

Last week, I officiated a funeral service.  Together, as a congregation, we sang some of the old, familiar hymns.  We read some passages from scripture.  We remembered and celebrated the life of the deceased.  We thanked God for the promise of life eternal.  And then, when the final prayer had been prayed, we all shuffled out of the church and into our cars to drive up to the cemetery for the burial.

I rode in the lead car, sitting shotgun with our small town’s funeral director.  He’d called the sheriff’s office that morning for a police escort, but it’s a small town and we don’t have many officers on duty.  Something more pressing must have come up, because no police escort ever arrived.  So, as we pulled out from the church’s parking lot, it fell to us to block traffic for the funeral procession.

The man coming up the highway was clearly not happy about being asked to stop.  He kept inching his car forward, trying to cut in.  When it became clear he wouldn’t be able to sneak into the funeral procession and would have to wait for all fifteen or so cars to go by, he threw both hands up in the air.

To be fair, this guy was the exception and not the rule.  Most people in the Midwest have learned that sometimes there’s a railroad crossing, or slow-moving combine, and you’ve just got to be patient.  And most people around here have a great deal of respect for a funeral procession, even if they aren’t particularly religious themselves.

But what I want this man, and all people, to understand is why it’s so important to just stop, and wait, and give up that small amount of your time as the funeral procession goes by.

You might not have known the deceased, but the people in those cars knew him, and they loved him, and now they miss him so much that it hurts.  A person who had been such a big part of their lives, who had occupied so much space in their hearts, is gone.  To them, his death means that the world has changed forever.

And yet, despite the fact that their world has changed forever, the rest of the world continues to march on as though nothing has happened.  The kids who missed school to be at the funeral will find that the teacher still gave assignments in their absence – assignments they’re still responsible for completing.  The adults who missed work to be at the funeral know that the office stayed open without them, and when they get back to the office there will be work waiting.  How can it be that their world has been so irreparably altered, and yet the rest of the world barely takes notice?

That’s why we stop for funeral processions.  In that small way, by giving up a small amount of our time, we take notice of their grief.  The rest of the world might go on with business as usual, but at least when they look out of their car windows they’ll see that traffic stopped moving, just for a moment, for them.  For the briefest of moments and in the smallest of spaces, the world stopped to mourn the death of their loved one with them.

So please, when you see that funeral procession pulling out into the street, stop and wait.  Let them move together, one after the other.  Let the line of cars be unbroken.  They need one another right now.  And even though they probably don’t know you, they need you, in that moment, to mourn with them.

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