My cousin Brian Cook timed it well. He died earlier in the week and received a full-military-honors funeral yesterday, Nov. 10, in the National Cemetery in Chattanooga, TN.
The cemetery is always an inspiring place, to me anyway: facing out from the large American flag on the commanding central prominence is row upon row upon row of gleaming white grave markers, all of uniform shape, a solemn phalanx giving mute testimony of duty and faith.
But Brian timed it so that his service would happen when the cemetery was decked out for Veterans' Day, the next day (today): American flags placed at close intervals along the roadways that wind through the cemetery. What a welcome, and what a farewell!
In the picture below--taken in the National Cemetery on the occasion of my father's funeral in 2009--Brian is the tall white-haired gent on the back row over to the right of the photo. He stands between my older brother (holding the flag) and me. Brian's hand is on my shoulder.
You might say it will always be there. On Wednesday night the family held a visitation at the home that lasted until 8. To get there I had a drive that usually takes 3.5 hours. For one reason or another I could only get away with very little time to spare to make it by 8. So what did I do? Brian liked to drive fast. Speed limits were to him only suggestions, and not very good ones at that. So I put Brian riding shotgun with me, and I set out.
If the speedometer needled dipped below 80, I would hear Brian yell out with exasperation (he had a great yell when he was exasperated), "What are you doing?!?" This way Brian was able to keep me up to speed, as it were, all the way past Morristown, Knoxville, Loudoun, and Athens.
Until Cleveland. Traffic slowed to a crawl. No merging happening, so it couldn't be construction. 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 minutes and still just a snail's pace. Where was Brian? C'mon, Brian, don't be letting this happen! Brian had disappeared.
Finally, after 45 minutes, as the roadway crosses White Oak Mtn., traffic merged over to the left lane. There was a glow up ahead, and smoke, and finally I was driving past a full-on forest fire burning right next to I-75!
And there was Brian again, throwing his head back and laughing his big laugh and then yelling, "What are you doing?!? Get a move on!"
I made it in time. My cousin Brian timed it well.