Thursday, January 19, 2012

Part 14 - Procession

July 25, 2002 ~ 10:00 a.m. or so......

Jim has just delivered his eulogy and Joseph has played "The
Cathedral" - the final tribute to Joseph Michael Hanlein, Jr., the
attendees have spoken their accolades. The family is gathered around
the about-to-be-closed casket for their final goodbye.  Joe's father
cannot come to the casket for the final goodbye.  I am practically
crawling in the casket with him - so afraid to let him go!!

I stumble outside to feed my nicotine addiction... there are dozens of
cars lining up and there in front is a Constable from the state of
Tennessee or the jurisdiction of Jackson, Tennessee.  I can't figure
it out....

As we leave George A. Smith & Sons Funeral Home in Jackson, TN headed
to Cushman, AR suddenly we are surrounded by 4 or 5 Tennessee State
Troopers on Motorcyles.  The Tennessee version of CHIPS!!  They
practically run the constable off the road and take over the funeral
procession.  At each and every exit and on-ramp along I-40 they stop
traffic so the procession can progress unencumbered.  When we reached
the bridge spanning "Old Man River" from Memphis, TN to West Memphis,
AR the TN highway patrol passed the procession on to the Arkansas
State Police - that was halfway across the bridge.  From that point on
at each and every county line in Arkansas another law enforcement
escort took up the duty of escorting Joe to his final resting place -
one in front, one in back..  The trip is 218 miles and takes about 5
hours.  A long an grueling day.

As we came around the curve and made the decent from the top of the
mountain in Batesville, AR, across the White River and down into the
town the traffic had been stopped at each and every intersection.  As
the hearse passed through with the procession in tow a police car fell
into place at the end of the procession.  It continued until we had
reached the cemetary a few miles outside of town.  As I got out of the
car there were "blue lights" flashing for miles behind us.  Or so it

OMG!!  Up on the hill in the cemetary there must have been 500 people
who had been waiting for hours in the wretched heat......  As the
procession came to a halt an Honour Guard from the Marine Corps
appeared from  nowhere.  They carried the casket to the freshly dug
grave.  Christ!!  This thing is about over and my physical contact
with my only child is about to come to an end.......  Jesus.  NO!!  I
cannot go on living knowing that my beloved child is relegated  to the
cold, hard earth forever!

Just as I'm about to freak out someone in the distance starts playing
"Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.  Then there is a 21 gun salute that
startled the hell out of me..... and then taps!  Jesus... this is
fucking surreal.  This is absolutely not happening in my life.