I am back from two days in South Dakota, for my father’s funeral. We had a visitation Tuesday evening and the funeral this morning. I always return from South Dakota in a better mood, but that was especially true this time.
We saw quite a few friends and relatives, of course. But it was the consideration of strangers that seemed remarkable. This morning, as our funeral procession drove from the church to the cemetery, all the oncoming traffic pulled over and stopped. Is that a convention I didn’t know about? In any event, it was moving. One woman was walking on the sidewalk and stopped with her hand over her heart until we passed. And she probably had no idea whose funeral it was.
It was a raw day, temperature of 9 degrees with a biting North wind. I felt like my brothers and I were a little heroic for braving the cold to carry our father’s coffin to the grave site. But when we arrived, there were 15 or so veterans waiting for us–six riflemen to fire a salute, two to fold and present the American flag that was draped across the coffin–a task they accomplished with remarkable precision–and a number more standing by.
This was because my father was a veteran. He would be the first to say he was no war hero, although he did nearly get killed in the Battle of the Bulge. I am not even sure how the local American Legion and VFW chapters knew about my father’s death and the funeral arrangements. I suppose they read about it in the newspaper. Nor do I know how long they were standing in the cold before we arrived. But it was a moving display of patriotism. When the short, frigid service was over, I ran after the veterans to thank them on behalf of the family for honoring our father.
When you follow the news too closely, as we do, you can get a pretty low opinion of humanity. It is good to be reminded sometimes that most people are just fine.