Death with dignity

I have been very lucky in life, my parents are both still living, even if sometimes they appear to be straight out of a George Romeo movie. I have not lost many people and for that I am thankful. How to handle death is a very personal matter. Some grieve in private, others with a public display, but death affects all of us, and will at some point, REALLY affect each and every one of us.

At my place of work, a school, we lost a teacher recently. It was handled with care, compassion and understanding. The school administration team did an amazing job and I personally cannot think of a better way that it could have been handled. Every step was thought about and then delicately taken, with the thoughts of each and every member of the school, be it pupil or staff taken into account. It made me proud to be part of such a great team.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is the Westboro Baptist Church. An organization of 71 people who have an extreme view on homosexuality and who have taken to protest the burial of soldiers killed during war. They are situated in Topeka, Kansas and are actually described on the Wikipedia page as a widely described hate group. Their tactics of attending the funerals of soldiers with offensive signs and chants have often disrupted the proceedings.

Since the group, I hate to use the word Church as they are clearly a church in the true meaning of the word, have begun their antics, several states have passed laws barring any protests within a varying distance, 300 feet to 500 feet. The supreme court of the US has stated that “What Westboro said, in the whole context of how and where it chose to say it, is entitled to ‘special protection’ under the First Amendment and that protection cannot be overcome by a jury finding that the picketing was outrageous.”. In essence, it appears that no one can stop this hate group from spreading it’s message of intolerance or disrupting what should be the most solemn of events.

This is what I thought until today when I read a story online, courtesy of, about a funeral in Brandon, Mississippi of a United States Marine Corp Staff Sgt Jason Rogers. Word got out that the Westboro group were planning to protest the funeral, so this small town of just over 16,000 people decided on a plan. The following has been taken from an Ole Miss sports message board.

A couple of days before, one of them ran his mouth at a Brandon gas station and got his ass waxed. Police were called and the beaten man could not give much of a description of who beat him. When they canvassed the station and spoke to the large crowd that had gathered around, no one seemed to remember anything about what had happened.

Rankin County handled this thing perfectly. There were many things that were put into place that most will never know about and at great expense to the county.

Most of the morons never made it out of their hotel parking lot. It seems that certain Rankin county pickup trucks were parked directly behind any car that had Kansas plates in the hotel parking lot and the drivers mysteriously disappeared until after the funeral was over. Police were called but their wrecker service was running behind and it was going to be a few hours before they could tow the trucks so the Kansas plated cars could get out.

A few made it to the funeral but were ushered away to be questioned about a crime they might have possibly been involved in. Turns out, after a few hours of questioning, that they were not involved and they were allowed to go on about their business.

This is a small town in Mississippi and yet they called upon their ingenuity and found plenty of people to help keep the funeral proper. Today, I feel as proud of the residents of Brandon as I did of my work mates. Both have treated death with grace and compassion. I can only hope to be as good as these people. I know that right now I am not.

For a slightly more detailed report, please visit

This column is a personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The St. Thomas Blog.

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