To all of the drivers who stopped at the green lights Winnipeg last week Monday, just after lunch…
I want to thank you.
I was in the funeral procession. 8 cars making a solemn, slow ride towards the cemetary. We travelled from near Polo Park to north of the perimeter on Main Street.
I’d never been the driver in a processional across town like today and I was moved at the deep respect I experienced as we moved through town.
There was never a car that sought to interrupt the processional as we went through one red light after another. Not a honk or inkling of frustration as we went through the city, slowly and steadily, as a unit.
Thank you for stopping.
A sole vehicle on the Arlington Bridge saw the hearse, the flashing lights of the cars and the “funeral flags” raised above the cars. That car stopped in the middle of the bridge in respect for our vehicles as we passed by. Silent and still.
It brought me to tears, really. The first I’d cried all day.
I was busy with the funeral–checking in with this one, answering a question for that one, and leading portions of the funeral—some last minute changes given that the minister had the flu and didn’t come. The drive was the first chance I’d had to sit and ponder the reality of it all:
My friend, Selma, died.
All day, I had been busy with all details wanting to do my part to send Selma off well. I wanted to honour her, but there wasn’t really time for me to be sad.
When I got in the car, put on my flashers and got in the procession behind the hearse, I was quiet and still for the first time all day.
A slow silence in the procession.
And that is when reality set in, and I felt the loss.
If you were one of the drivers in those cars, I want you to know how significant your respect was last week to me. You bore silent witness to the grief—to my grief. I wept in the car as we moved towards the cemetery, and you were there for me.
That meant so much to me as someone who loved Selma.
You might not have known who was in the hearse, or who was following her. Let me tell you.
Selma was a beloved cook at a Bible College here in town for many years. She was married for the first time in early 40’s. They never had any children and her husband died 20 years ago. But Selma was never lonely.
Selma created family around her.
Friends weren’t just like family. Friends were family.
She had many devoted nieces and nephews who loved her—and every last one of them lived far away. Many came from the funeral, recalling all the trips she made to see them, and all the birthday cards she had sent to them. As her local friends set things up, we called the nephews who had just arrived in town to let them know of the meeting at the funeral home. They immediately invited us in to the planning as equal family.
Selma loved sending cards. A meaningful tradition that is passing by the wayside in the face of modern technology. The cards, carefully chosen and thoughtfully inscribed were remembered as expressions of love.
But it was Winnipeg friends-become-family who cared for her. Dedicatedly taking her to appointments, and helping her with her affairs as her eyesight declined. They were good to her because they were good for each other.
I went to visit Selma when she first went to the rehab hospital after her broken arm. I took a selfie with her which she thought was both magical and hilarious. She wasn’t one for technology.
Selma loved playing games, and was fierce competitive. She would go hard and give dirty looks to someone who was inching ahead, or who didn’t give her credit for counting the dice herself. She won more than her share.
And then she would apologize several times for having lost herself in the game.
Selma was kind and loving and fun. And she was real. She was open in her questions and let me in on her fears. Selma forever wondered if she was enough—actually, she struggled with the knowing that she wasn’t. Her battle is everyone’s battle really, but for most it remains unspoken. Selma just spoke it out loud.
Selma and I always joked that I got custody of her in the divorce. She was friends with Former Husband long before I came on the scene. Former Husband left her too—and she was angry and hurt—and then ashamed of how angry and hurt she was—and then ashamed of the shame. This circle of pain wasn’t unique to Selma—what was special was how transparent she was with me as we chatted about it.
Selma was a big believer in grace. She spent time studying mercy, learning it in groups with others, and practicing grace. Her faith was important to her and resourced her for dealing with those internal battles that we often discussed.
She doubted, questioned, struggled and, when we talked long enough, could come around to the wonder of grace and soak in it—as long as I didn’t rush her off the phone.
Selma taught me a lot about being open and inviting others into one’s life.
A decade ago, I sat down with Selma and asked her questions about her funeral. Because she didn’t have her own children, I knew it would be “funeral by committee”. She talked and I typed. I must have printed off a large print copy for her, because when I met with the co-executor the day after her passing to make arrangements, there is was in her “final affairs” folder. I had long forgotten about it—now it became the template for her funeral. We had a chance to enjoy her all over again, as we read things she said. For flowers, she said something like:
“A nice bouquet on the casket. No lilies—I’m allergic. Something bright and colourful, but be mindful of strong scents because some might be sensitive. And not too big—don’t let this be a big expense.” This captured Selma…funny, colourful, thoughtful in many ways.Selma
So, drivers of those cars who stopped at intersections regardless of what the traffic lights indicated to allow us to pass through as a procession, know that I am grateful for how you honoured Selma, my dear friend.
In stopping, you joined me in grief. Perhaps you remembered a time you were in a procession. Maybe you remembered a loss of a dear one as the cars slowly passed. I wonder if you paused to tap into the collective grief we all share.
Thank you for walking with me as you sat in your cars, stopped at the green light. I didn’t know you, but I know you were a diverse group. Some married, some learning to drive, some at the end of their own lives, and others struggling financially. Some new to Canada, some caregivers, and others late for a meeting.
You all stopped. You were respectful and kind.
And I wanted you to know how very much it meant to me.