There seems to be an unspoken rule around funeral procession etiquette, especially in the South. Out of respect of the deceased, whenever a funeral procession begins its trek from the church to the cemetery, all motorists dutifully pull to the side of the road and wait for the procession to pass. It’s a nice gesture and allows the procession to travel undisturbed from other motorists.
In the country, however, the processions can be several miles long, traveling through rural areas from churches to small family cemeteries in the country. One day, when I was only 16 and had just started driving on my own, I inadvertently broke this rule of etiquette. I was driving home from high school. It was around 4:00 in the afternoon and I deviated from my normal route and took the long way home. I was about five miles from home, between Plains, GA and Americus, GA. I came to a stop sign at an intersection. There was a hearse followed by a couple of limousines and a stream of cars with their head lights on. They were all part of the procession. I waited until what I thought was the last car, gave them a few seconds to get a decent distance ahead, and pulled out onto the highway. As I looked back in my mirror, I could see that I hadn’t waited for the entire procession and that I was, in fact, right in the middle of it. No big deal, I thought to myself. The road I needed to take to go home was just a mile or so ahead.
By this time, the part of the procession in front of me had rounded a curve and was out of sight. The road on which I needed to turn veered off of the highway that I was on. I made the turn and I was safely out of the procession – or so I thought. As I glanced back in the rearview mirror, I saw, to my horror, that the second half of the funeral procession had followed me instead of the first half of the procession. I didn’t really know what to do. I couldn’t very well pull off the road and explain to the entire procession that they were following the wrong car. I also couldn’t turn around and rejoin the rest of the procession. So, I decided to escape. Fortunately, there was about a two mile stretch of road ahead of me. I rapidly accelerated to around 90 mph and held my speed for the two mile stretch. As I looked in the mirror, all I could see was the stream of cars behind me slowly disappearing in the distance. I had led them astray and then abandoned them.
I have no idea what happened to the procession after I broke it up. I still wonder if the part of the procession that followed me ever made it to the cemetery. The only thing I knew for sure it that I wasn’t sticking around to find out.
After I die, I’ve decided to be creamed and interred at the same church in which the service will be held. There will be no long processions or misadventures at my funeral. I can’t say that my decision is due to the funeral procession that I ruined. Of course, I can’t say that it’s not either.