Backstage at a funeral
Whenever I watch a big event happening I always wonder what things look like backstage. That is the most interesting part to me. Today I am “backstage” for a funeral for a young highway patrol officer. When I arrived 5–6 officers were parked in the church lot, some pacing around the cars. Some on their phones. I came in because my role here today is being the BFF to the sister of the deceased. I keep making lots of notes about my experiences these last few days and I imagine there will be future posts about it. Today I am interested in “backstage.”
As I set up a screen and projector to run a slideshow of photographs, that small group of officers came inside too. And they started rehearsing. Together they figured out how many steps stage right to take before the turn. It is theatre. It is dance. I feel so lucky to be witnessing it.
Now there are close to 20 officers. Sometimes they stand around and laugh and tell stories. Sometimes they break from that for that one guy who needs to go over the protocol again. A few moments ago, they all gathered around a phone to watch a YouTube video of a 21 gun salute so that they will remember what to do when they get to the cemetery.
Now they are going over the movements of taking and folding the flag. What words will be said, when do we turn, how do we hold it?
The preparations were interrupted when one officer (I’m sure some of them have higher ranks. I’ve heard “hi captain!”) brought in a small piece of cardboard that looked like it have Velcro straps on it. He went around to each man and gave him a small piece of black cloth that they then helped each other place around their badges to signify the fallen officer.
It was at this moment that it truly felt like backstage for a play production. The community working together to help each other get dressed. These are “big and burly men.” They look so gentle as they lean in to each other to make sure the black stripe is placed properly. They are quiet as they do. It is a sacred act. They seem not to care that I am sitting nearby on the front pew watching. I am the only person here to see it.
What an incredible gift this is.