To the editor:
I work occasionally as a part-time assistant for funerals at the St. Peter Funeral Home-Klein Chapel. In this capacity, I frequently drive the Coach as we transport bodies to final places of rest. Last week, I witnessed something that moved me.
The St. Peter Police Department frequently assists funeral processions to make safe passage across dangerous intersections. The procession was moving east on Broadway and making its way across Highway 169. Two officers assisted: one directing traffic from the north, the other from the south. As I crossed 169 with the funeral coach and the corpse, an unknown officer directing southbound traffic, turned and faced the passing coach. He brought himself to attention and slowly and smartly brought his arm to his visor in respectful salute to the deceased and her mourners — an uncommon courtesy in our day.
We live in a time when fewer and fewer people show respect to a funeral procession. Folks will become angry at delays, break into or across the procession, and occasionally even make obscene gestures. Who teaches regard for the dead, much less honor, any longer? We live in a time of escalating coarseness, disrespectfulness, and crudeness. My father, who carried dead comrades from the battlefield and assisted in burying the thousands of corpses at Dachau taught that all, and most certainly the dead, deserved respect and dignity. When a funeral procession approached, one pulled aside and stopped. In bygone days, weather permitting, one disembarked and stood in respect, doffing your hat or holding your hand over your heart. No longer! (And perhaps not now a safe practice).
The woman whose body was being carried that day was no military hero. She was a mother and wife whose simple life was spent in humble service to others as a nurse. She mothered a differently-abled son and was involved in the life of her Christian congregation. Somewhere in Holy Writ is recorded that "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his children." Evidently it was precious to this officer, too. Anthropologists tell us that societies can be judged by how they treat their dead. I fear we are losing ground. If the dead are not respected neither will be the living.
Officer, whoever you are, to my eye you reminded us all of something very important and did this community and your department proud! Thank you, kind sir, thank you!
Charles R. Christensen