The bag piper playing Amazing Grace did me in, as did the bugler, and the missing man formation, the twenty-one gun salute, the dignity with which everything was handled and the music. I was moved to see that huge piece of the Berlin Wall, the rolling California hills with the sea in the distance, and finally the sunset.
So many familiar faces in the crowd and reminders of my father, my grandmother and my grandfather's funerals. I sung Amazing Grace for my grandmother but I just couldn't do that for my daddy, it was hard enough to give his eulogy. Singing requires something more, there is too much feeling that escapes on the breath. How can I watch this and not think of my father and the way he died? My amazing, beautiful, sweet father, who despite his inability to really connect with me, and despite his old world ideas of discipline and models of behavior, really truly loved my mother and me.
The thing for me about this that is hard is that I knew him not as this president but as this funny, charming, elegant man, and I know that he deteriorated the way my father did, robbed of his sanity and health by Alzheimers. It's really sad to think of this big strong proud man dying this way. I knew him through my parents, their stories about him, and because he lived at the far edges of my social periphery. I remember my parents when they were young and handsome, dressed up to go to a cocktail or a dinner party, and how they would come back and tell me they had spoken with the governor and then later the president. I remember their dreams for him, how they wanted him to become president, all those fundraising dinners, and how happy they were when he won. Despite my rebellious, leftist, liberal leanings, and my love for President Carter, the Reagans were such a big part of my parents world, how could they not have touched mine? He was so charismatic that I once hugged him, and I saw Nancy frequently through the years. My godparents were their best friends.
I've remarked on this before here but the best funeral I ever attended was for the father of one of Beau's father's friends. The priest said that our dying is our final act, a sacrament as important as any other, and that in our dying we give others the gift of bringing them together. All politics aside I am praying that this week of mourning for this good man will unite our country, not behind any one political agenda, but in a non partisan coming together, in a remembrance of what is good about our nation and her history, and what is beautiful about our country. I hope that people who watched this funeral will take away from it that families, no matter how fractured and wounded, can heal, and that the love we feel for each other is, in the end, all that matters.