The Man in the Yellow Hard Hat

16 04 2013

My mother-in-law died recently just short of her 90th birthday. She missed living to celebrate it by less than a week. This is to honor her life and to share a story about events surrounding her funeral.

We were leaving the funeral service with headlights on and safety flashers announcing our procession from the chapel to the cemetery.

The flashing blue lights of the police escort followed by the hearse with the body of Sabra and a line of mourners weaving our way through a typical small town.

The orange cones and signs told us construction was before us. As we approached the site of the street repair some continued to work on. Backs were turned, shovels or power tools in hand and the line of cars going by were no more than the usual distraction that must be blocked out to get the job done.

In the distance was  a man holding a red sign that said ” Stop”  and on the reverse said, ” Slow”. But that is  not what drew my eye to him. With one hand he did his duty and instructed traffic. With the other one he removed his yellow hard had and placed it over his heart and showed his respect.

W. H. Auden writes:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

The complete text may be found online. To view and listen to the movie clip , click:  Four Weddings and a Funeral which brought this work into the public eye again.

I heard someone once say they would like for the world to stop, or a least Mc Donald’s close for a few moments upon the occasion of their death.  It won’t happen. Clocks won’t stop. dogs will still bark, tears continue to fall and workers oblivious to a passing will  work on.

But every now and someone will hold up a sign and say “Stop…Slow” and remove a hat and cover a heart.

I guess I just wanted to do the same.

Blest are they that rest in the Lord….