Honoring a former president


Like many of you, I watched the funeral for our former President George H. W. Bush last week. It was sobering, enlightening, awesome, and somehow comforting for me, all at the same time.

As one commentator said, “Ceremonies are very, very important to the U.S.A. Ceremonies allow us to reflect on what it means to be an American citizen.”

There was an abundance of ceremony as our country honored and bid farewell to this man who served his country honorably for decades in numerous positions right up to the presidency. Because both of my parents are World War II Navy veterans, like Mr. Bush, it was special to me that he is the last president who is a veteran of that war.

I was captivated by the appearance and the precision of every military unit in the ceremonies that were part of the funeral. Every uniform was perfect: every brass button and belt buckle polished to within an inch of its life — as were the shoes — and all the white uniform hats and gloves were so clean and bright they gleamed in the sun. The phrase “spit and polish” came to mind over and over again, and it did my heart good. Since we now live in a culture where it’s become acceptable to wear pajamas to the store, I appreciated the care and formality that was so evident at the capitol and the cathedral.

Pomp and circumstance was everywhere for the funeral of our 41st president. All marching was done in perfect military precision, so exact that it appeared to be just one foot lifted on each foot fall. I never saw one of the eight pallbearers look to his right or left, yet their movements were always perfectly synchronized. Not one time did any of the pallbearers look down to see if he was on steady footing before moving on to the next step. And yet, somehow, he always was.

As I watched the funeral, I found myself wondering what it took to keep President Bush’s casket level as the pallbearers descended with it down the long staircase outside the capital building. Then there were more steps into the National Cathedral for the funeral before the casket was brought back down the steps to be carefully — and rather gently — loaded into the hearse for the trip back to Texas.

There have been far too many times recently that as a country we’ve found ourselves in unfortunate situations when we’ve not been at our best. I have wondered what is happening to us and where we are headed. But when we can put all that aside as we pause to honor a respected president with the pomp and circumstance and ceremony he deserves, perhaps there is a ray of hope for us after all.


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