Monday, February 24, 2014

Paying our respects—the least we could do.

A few days ago a friend in the ward told me that a young man in a nearby stake had recently been killed in action in Afghanistan.  She said that people were planning to gather to hold flags along the road near the funeral to show support for the family and wanted to know if we might be interested in going. 

Right away I knew that it was something I wanted to be involved in.  I wanted to take the triplets and I was surprised when even Josh wanted to go.  We borrowed flags from people in our ward, put on our warm (and waterproof) coats and set out for Beaverton on a cold and rainy afternoon.

When we arrived there were already so many people there with flags big and small and some with signs as well.  In the Target parking lot was a hook & ladder truck with it’s ladder fully extended, holding a large flag over the road.  It was a sight to see—for blocks in either direction, people lining the road holding their flags. 


As we waited I couldn’t help remembering my mom’s funeral procession.  In the south there is a beautiful tradition that when a funeral procession comes by, you pull your car off to the side of the road to let them pass.  I had done that many times without ever really thinking about it, but when I was on the other side—when people were pulling off the road to honor my mother, it was so meaningful.  The final bittersweet moment that day was driving past the policeman who lead the funeral procession and then stopped at the entrance to the cemetery, as he stood and saluted the cars that drove by.  I could not have imagined how much that respect and thoughtfulness would mean.

After we had been waiting in the rain with our flags for a while we heard a police siren blip.  Several groups of policemen on motorcycles rode by us, participating in the procession as their way to pay their respects to the family and honor their son.  Finally we could tell that the procession was approaching.


I could tell his parents were in the car right behind the hearse because I had seen the family picture in the news and I recognized his mother.  They had the windows partially down on their car and I could tell she was looking at all of the flags and crying.  As all of the other cars went by so many of the people in them were overcome by emotion at the sight of the flag-lined road.  One young woman was standing up through the sun-roof of her car, her face pressed to a camera hidden in a plastic bag to protect it from the rain, sobbing as she went by.  We saw many military officers with lots of colorful bars on their uniforms.  One had his window down and looked right at us, saying “God bless you” over and over again out of the window as he drove down the street.

It was one of those experiences that only lasts a few minutes but seems to occupy much more space than that.  We stood silently holding our flags, watching the cars drive by, and then it was over.  We rolled up our wet flags and walked back across the street and into the crowded parking lot, and I was profoundly grateful that I had come to show my gratitude and pay my respects.  It seemed the least we could do…


(I forgot my camera, so borrowed these pictures from the news & the facebook page.)

PS—read this on facebook today:

Sitting in McDonald's watching the kids play and I overhear a lady in her phone taking to a distant relative saying. Yes it was a nice funeral. You would not believe the way people lined the streets, it was amazing and overwhelming to see how everyone cared for John.


  1. What a powerful experience to be a part of, and your words about it are beautiful!

  2. How beautiful. Thanks for sharing.