Power of a funeral procession

The Power of a Procession

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I can recall when I was around 8-years-old, I was walking with my dad when we saw a long procession of vehicles coming our way. He told me that we should stop and show our respect as it was a funeral procession. He pointed out the long shiny black car and told me it was the hearse that was carrying the person who had died. He explained that all the other cars following with their lights on were the deceased person’s family and friends and that they were proceeding together to the cemetery to bury their loved one. I remember they were all driving very slowly - much slower than the other cars usually did on that road. Most cars were letting them go by and some were even pulling over or stopping to avoid disrupting this respectful journey. I knew this was an important event and I was in awe of how everyone just knew what to do to show their respect. They too must have had parents who taught them about funeral procession respect when they were my age.  

It wasn’t long after this that I attended my grandfather’s funeral and experienced being a part of a procession firsthand. There was a powerful feeling of importance and community as I noticed the immediate attention from those on the road and sidewalk. Cars letting us go by, people on the street showing their respect. One man even removed his hat as we passed. My grandpa was certainly worthy of this recognition and effort and I remember feeling so proud. It felt right. I wonder what has changed since then? It wasn’t that long ago…this story is from 1984. 

Now that I am in the funeral service profession, I have had the honour of being a part of many funeral processions. I still find myself filled with a sense of pride as we lead our cortege of professional vehicles through the community, with family and friends following in such a traditional and respectful way. But unfortunately, that feeling gets interrupted more and more it seems, as the years go by. People do not slow down anymore, stop or let you go by. In most cases, I find cars actually speed up to get around us, to not get “stuck behind” our procession. It makes me sad. And if it makes me sad, how does the family feel?  

In a feedback survey Sands Funeral Chapel received from one of our client families, we found out. We were pleased to read the positive comments about our staff and services, but one comment that was made, we discussed as a team in length. It read: “I know it is difficult, but it would be nice if there was a way for us to follow the hearse without other cars cutting in on the way to the burial site”. This was the procession experience for this family, a very different one than mine in 1984.  

Although we do our very best as funeral professionals to keep the procession together, ultimately if someone wants to cut in, they will. So after reading this, perhaps together we can help to change this fading community support for such a powerful tradition. If you see a procession coming your way or in your review mirror, take a moment as we travel by to the final resting place, to show your respect to the family and to the person we are honouring, who is being carried in the long shiny black car. 

We ask you to take a few moments to do this, as we would want the same respect shown for you and your family.  

Protocol for Funeral Processions: 7 Important Things to Know 

Even if you’ve never participated in one, chances are you have seen a funeral procession and may have wondered about proper etiquette.  

Read Arbor Memorial’s top seven things you should know about funeral procession etiquette if you are participating in one, or you encounter one in your community.  

Participating in a Funeral Procession 

We recommend drivers keep these things in mind: 

  1. If you are a family member or close friend who will be a part of a funeral procession and driving your own vehicle, you should plan to arrive early. We recommend arriving at least 30-minuets before the funeral begins, to ensure your vehicle is placed accordingly for the procession.   

  1. Funeral procession vehicles are identified for other drivers. Arbor’s funeral professionals will usually place a magnetic flag on the funeral vehicles and a sticker or ribbon will be provided for the other cars in the procession. Participating vehicles will be advised to turn on their headlights for the drive to the final resting place. This signifies the members of the funeral procession to other motorists. 

  1. Processions typically drive at a slower pace, approximately 10 km less than the posted speed limitThis pace assists with keeping the vehicles together, without being a hazard. 

  1. Funeral processions rely on the courtesy of other drivers. They have no authority to go through red lights or assume they have the right of way. Make sure you yield to traffic if needed. Should organizers wish for their procession to proceed uninterrupted, it’s recommended to arrange a police escort (if that is permitted in your area), who has the authority to direct traffic as required to keep a funeral procession together. 

Encountering a Funeral Procession 

  1. Be respectful.  

  1. Yield to a funeral procession, if possible. While we understand there are no special privileges accorded to funeral processions under some provincial Highway Traffic Acts, we encourage you to slow down and pull over, when it’s safe to do so, to let the procession through.  

  1. If you're driving on a highway, don't pass a funeral procession on the right. 

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