Sometimes I watch these national ceremonies and sometimes I don’t. I didn’t watch the McCain funeral or the events surrounding it. I watched the Reagan funeral and was quite impressed with the manner in which it was handled and the precise choreography of each military action.
I decided to watch the George H. W. Bush funeral. It was after all a national day of mourning and the ceremonies surrounding it I felt would be similar to those of Reagan. Of course the most significant of all these presidential funerals for those old enough to remember is that of John F. Kennedy. Who could ever forget the riderless horse or France’s DeGaulle leading the foreign delegation or the eternal flame or the photo of John Jr. saluting his father?
I didn’t expect Bush’s funeral to come close to that – the JFK funeral was after an assassination that shocked the nation – even though both men fought well in WWII. Today is the 77th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that required the presence of both men in the Pacific theater of war. Bush was lucky to live to see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His funeral was not tragic or very sad but it did remind us of the decent man which he was to his family, friends, and country.
I admired the military for their tremendous ability to carry off their onerous duties in the very cold weather. Those kids deserve our utmost thanks and respect. Looking at them one is reminded of how young Bush was when he gave up his chance to go to Yale and joined the Navy and became a bomber pilot flying off aircraft carriers in the Pacific. Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney one of the eulogists reminded us of this.
Seeing these young service people in formation and also in the various choirs makes me realize our best days as a country are still ahead of us. No matter how dark the days may seem at time we are all Americans. Those who seek to divide us will eventually fail. Of that I am sure.
I sometimes think a large reason for our present day’s yelling at each other- calling people libs, libtards, or repubtards – is the failure of people from different parts of the country to get to meet and know each others. At one time in our country we had a military draft which brought us into contact with each other. We realized during those encounters that no matter how much philosophical, political, or religious differences that separated us we were at the core Americans who would be there for the others in time of need.
Maybe that is what George H.W. Bush learned during his time in the service; maybe the deaths of the two crewmen in his airplane, Radioman Second Class John Delaney and Lt.(jg) William White, whose parachutes failed when they bailed out, burned deep into his heart the knowledge that differences in their backgrounds did not make them any less American than himself and that they died for America. He would always wonder why God spared him.
If there was one lesson I took away from his funeral it was his great love for America and that he put the country before himself. He knew when he went along with a bipartisan bill that included raising taxes that he would suffer for it. But he also knew that the bill was important for our country and he put it before himself.
I was pleased to hear the Irish proverb recited by one of the men who gave a eulogy: “There are good ships and wood ships, ships that sailed the sea, but the best ships are friendships, may they always be.” All those who spoke talked about how President Bush had many friendships with people from all walks of life. You want to know what friendship is! Consider this, the highly respected former Secretary of State James Baker seeing that President Bush was close to death spent the last half hour of his life rubbing his feet to bring him comfort.
The words of Alan Simpson the former senator from Wyoming who was a close friend of the late president Bush uttered the most memorable lines. These are words we all should keep in mind in these dire days. Speaking about George H. W. Bush he said: “He never hated anyone. He knew what his mother and my mother always knew: Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”