We arrived at the funeral home in Sandpoint just minutes before the service was to start at 11:00. We had left home at 5:00 sharp, and it had been a long hard drive. I had never met most of these people before, but most of them had a 50-50 chance of knowing who Brian was. The ubiquitous greeting, directed at him, was usually “which one are you?”. This makes sense if you know that Brian has a twin brother.
At any rate, we entered the funeral chapel and though I knew the family had requested that no flowers be sent, it seemed odd not to smell the fragrance of lilies and roses. Instead of the usual huge spray of flora beside the lectern, there sat a large, slightly antiqued ceramic cow. At first this incongruity didn’t really register with me, but as the service began and our eyes were on the funeral director, it began to dawn on me that black and white ceramic cows do not usually occupy the place of honor at a funeral. Everyone else behaved as if this were absolutely normal, and so I considered that perhaps I was just a bit weary from traveling and I was imagining a ceramic cow.
The 93-year life of Norman was highlighted. His service to his country in WWII (including the Battle of the Bulge), his dedication to the VFW post in Sandpoint, his famous wave from his antique tractors, and finally the story of how he met his wife Ruth (still living and 94 years old) was told.
Another of Brian’s uncles from this clan of 13 lived in Sandpoint in 1952. One day he told Norman that the Cunninghams were going to butcher a cow that Sunday and they would appreciate it if he could help. The Cunningham’s daughter was Ruth, and that is how Norman met Ruth. It seems that the cow who was being converted to beef that day had a name: Jamie.
Norman had a romantic streak in him, and every year since 1952, on the anniversary of the day he met Ruth, he brought her a cow and named it Jamie. So there was this one Jamie, sitting high and proud in a place of honor, bearing testimony to the kind of man Norman was and how much he treasured his wife.
And when the story was finished, Jamie the cow seemed to smile.