While his parents stood next to a handcrafted pine box filled with roses, calla lilly, and other blue and white flowers, Cody Seal looked out the corner window of the side altar of St. Clare’s Catholic Church.
He watched three American flags and a wooden cross flutter in the wind as the snake outside grew and twisted so long and twisted that he and the priest had never seen it before.
And people kept coming back. At one point the line extended almost to US 90.
They parked in the grass along Vacation Lane, taking every spot on the beach nearby. They wore suits and dresses, work uniforms and jeans and T-shirts. They waited in the heat and sunshine to say goodbye to Cayce Seal.
The 28-year-old Bay St. Louis native and lineman of utility Entergy died last week after being in shock while working on power lines.
At church, Seal’s family hugged the necks of every person who came to pay their respects – about 2,000 total – while Ross Grisham and his band played music that brought gasps and tears from the crowded benches.
“Take my hand, dear sir, lead me home,” Grisham sang.
Doug and Michelle Seal laughed and cried, while Seal’s friend Cassie Lassabe often turned her head from the line to look at her partner in his final resting ship filled with signatures from friends, family, loved ones, and members of the Hancock County community. There was a flower-filled box nearby with a power line interrogator, and many of Cayce’s crewmates paused to pat the top and wiped away tears when they found a seat.
Cayce is the father of 2 year old Declan Seal and stepfather to 8 year old Anistyn Hoda.
Guests at the service included hundreds of first responders and Entergy staff, many of whom gathered outside the church near the bucket carts that lined US 90.
An overflow room in the church was filled with memorabilia that shaped Cayce’s life. He was the football and soccer coach of St. Stanislaus, King of the Nereids, competitive fisherman and bull rider. A slideshow played showing videos of Cayce dancing with his mother at a recent carnival ball.
Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam and Bay St. Louis Mayor Mike Favre were in attendance.
Cayce is buried in Lakeshore Cemetery on Thursday afternoon.
Doug Seal, who wore a dark blue suit with matching tennis shoes, had a message for the community when saying goodbye to his youngest son with his wife Michele by his side: “Live like Cayce.”
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Justin Mitchell is Editor for Retention and Special Projects for McClatchy’s Southeast Region. He also covers LGBTQ issues in the deep south, particularly with a focus on Mississippi.