As well talk to the waves sweeping up on the shoreline. The funeral tent heaved and pitched as the human tide swept against its iron posts and stay ropes.
Beard Gets Combing
Somehow the casket was set in its place and Uncle Bush in his chair in front of it. First off, he borrowed a comb and raked it through his white beard.
In the crush of cars and people, four of the "pallbearers" had been completely cut out of the procession, and six of the Chattanooga Octette whose songs were past due. The jokers were right. Uncle Bush was about 30 minutes late for his "funeral."
At last the singers got through and their voices rose up: "Time is filled with swift transition...hold to God's unchanging hand..."
People had to make themselves into a wall to protect him, but Uncle Bush's serene face seemed unmindful of the terrible shoving.
Right in the middle of the singing the loudspeaker broke down, and then there was an even mightier shoving from the crowd edges as people tried to shove up to hear what the Rev. Charles E. Jackson, come all the way from Paris, Ill., was going to say.
A man and some youngsters kept their fans going on Mr. Breazeale, while his self-appointed bodyguards kept the crowd from crushing him. The press of people made the casket teeter on its supports.
The Rev. Jackson's voice rose up in full pitch repeating the Twenty-third Psalm, but there was no way for the human voice unaided to reach that crowd.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures...He restoreth my soul. Yea, though I walk through the valley of death I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me..."
No fear was in the face of Uncle Bush, but a happy light, as he rested his grizzled old head back against the top of his casket. Before the service had even started, stealthy hands began ripping blossoms from the blanket of flowers.
"This is an unusual occasion," the Rev. Jackson's voice fought against the murmur of the crowd. "It is unusual for a man to shape his own casket with his own hands, and for singers to be called from Knoxville and Chattanooga and for this great concourse of acquaintances and friends to gather.
His Only Rites
A woman fainted almost within reach of Uncle Bush and the crowd parted just enough to let her be carried out.
The Rev. Jackson spoke sharply of people coming out of mere curiosity, but that didn't trouble Uncle Bush. And the tremendous crowd was no surprise. Hadn't he asked everybody he saw in Roane County and Knoxville and then everybody else who was listening when he spoke over WNOX?
"I hope that you did not come with the idea that this was a fantastic affair. That was not what prompted this man to have it," the minister said. "I submit that this is more serious than when the corpse is here, because life is more serious than death. It is interesting to find an individual who finds the time to make such plans in the midst of life, looking into the future.
"This is a funeral occasion that is divested of heartbreaks and heartaches."
It was. And, for so many, a happy reunion with friends not seen for as many as 35 years. It is the only funeral Uncle Bush will ever have. He wants no service when he dies.
"It might be wholesome for everybody to hear his own funeral before he crosses over," the Rev. Jackson said. "There might be time to make amends before the end."
Then he spoke of the significance of building, saying the measure of the man is the thing which he builds with his own life, but there was not much said directly about Uncle Bush. The Rev. Jackson read a brief "obituary."
The sketch said he was born June 29, 1864, one of the eight children of D. W. Breazeale and Sarah Littleton Breazeale on Dogwood Road where his home still is. Most of his life was spent working on the ridges with a bull tongue plow, and spending all of his life, except one year, in Roane County.
The preacher said Uncle Bush's mother was the sister of Thomas J. Littleton, father of Attorney Martin Littleton and Mrs. Rachel Vanderbilt Morgan of New York City.
"On Jordan's stormy banks I stand and cast a wistful eye," the Chattanooga singers took up his favorite hymn, and on the arm of his chair Uncle Bush beat out the melody. "I aimed to stand up when they sung it and make some gestures," he said. "But it's too crowded, there ain't room."
"Gold Mine In The Sky", was the song Fred Berry came from Knoxville to sing for Uncle Bush.
Not seeing the crowd but lifted up to search the blue beyond the top of a giant oak, Uncle Bush's eyes held something that was not in the faces of the crowd around him.
The press of the people made the casket rock forward as if it were going to slide forward and crush him, but he paid no attention to that.