Good people can be seen all around us

Published 12:02 am Sunday, December 29, 2013

Days grow shorter as I grow older.

Perhaps it’s because the older we get the more busy with life we seem to be. Or maybe we simply start noticing the days, months and years going by more quickly since each one moves us closer and closer to the end of life here on the big blue planet.

It’s difficult to know for sure, but the holidays are often an easy — but sometimes painful — time of reflection for us.

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Last week, a call from a long-time reader made me smile at first, then, after I hung up, I realized we’d shared the same experience — only 13 years apart.

Both of us had lost a loved one, but it was something we realized in the midst of the grieving process that made us stop and realize the world still has some good people in it.

“The very first one that pulled over was just past Trinity School,” Debbie McIlwain said when she called me. “On Kingston Road, there was a man who was on a lawnmower, and he stopped and pulled off his hat and put it over his heart.”

McIlwain was recounting her own observations from the funeral procession of her uncle, Billy Ray Havard, who left this earth on Dec. 18 and was buried a week ago Friday.

Awash in emotions at her family’s loss, it was the kindness of strangers who touched McIlwain’s heart as she and others drove the man they loved to his final resting place at the Jersey Settlers Cemetery in Kingston.

“The love and respect for a deceased’s family was overwhelming,” she said. “I know some of them were busy, but they pulled over anyway. Young, old, black and white.

“One other person at the Kingston turnoff, they were in a vehicle on 61 South — there was no one blocking the traffic — so, they pulled up into the middle of the highway blocking both lanes,” she said.

“I was just touched by the people who pulled over to show respect for him — most of them probably never knew him,” she said.

“It’s the respect and the love for others …” McIlwain said, her voice trailing off. “Somebody taught them that love and respect. There are plenty of people who don’t respect others.”

Her observations reminded me of similar observations during my grandfather’s funeral procession. I remember thinking, “Thanks people. That’s the least this great man deserves.”

My grandfather was 81 years old when he died, the same age as McIlwain’s uncle.

Mr. Havard was survived by his wife, four children, seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and numerous other relatives.

I don’t recall having ever met Mr. Havard, but based on the impression he made on his niece, I wish I had.

“He was a precious uncle, and he taught me a lot,” she said. “He was my Charlie Brown at the end. He had two little hairs on top of his head.”

“My daddy died on the 17th of December, and (Mr. Havard) died on the 18th of December,” she said. “It’s bittersweet.”

Bittersweet, indeed, but also comforting knowing that good people — the kind who open doors for ladies, put their hands over their hearts during the National Anthem and stop for the funerals of complete strangers — still exist.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or