They had a last glimpse of John Cotton's red hair flaming like a torch as the truck seemed to soar and dive and disappear. And that was all, except for the remote but unmistakable concussion of metal and rock and the recognition of its meaning, which, microseconds later, cracked their hearts even as it freed them, too, forever.
This quote from Chapter 20 provides the Bedwetters with their last living image of Cotton. Despite the sadness of his death, which "cracked their hearts," this image strikes the reader as triumphant and celebratory. Cotton lived, and died, with tremendous vivacity. The mention of his "red hair flaming like a torch" seems to speak to the intensity with which he lived and to the strength of his personality.