Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Why does this fascinate me so?

There are perks when working as a federal contractor. One of them is having today (January 2) off. I wasn't nursing a hangover brought on by the (yet another) loss of the Iowa Hawks at their latest bowl match-up. (I wasn't surprised, but I didn't drink my sorrows away because I didn't have any.)

Ever since my dad passed last year, I read the obits closely. My hometown's newspaper website sucks as far as what they have in their obituary section. But I'm fascinated with the process of a final celebration of one's life.

Former President Gerald Ford was no exception. I wrote about him (or my memories of him) for my "Iowa Expatriate" blog with the Iowa City Press-Citizen, I was kind of bummed that I wasn't going to get to see any of the proceedings (up close or through TV), and then word came that we were getting Jan. 2nd off.

Therefore, in an effort to feed my fascination with final send-offs, I watched the services this morning. And yes, in the true Sudiegirl geek tradition, I took notes. Here they are...condensed and edited, but notes nonetheless.

  • For those who have visited the National Cathedral, I maintain that it's a beautiful place of worship, and regret that I've only been there once since moving here. I still scratch my head sometimes and think, "How could it be that I have this wonderful place 'in my backyard'?" Another weird thought - little ol' me has actually met the Archbishop of Washington DC (John Bryson Chane), and I know that he occasionally plays drums with his own blues band. My bishop does indeed rock, and he's a nice guy to boot.
  • Lots of white-haired heads in our government these days.
  • The procession inside the cathedral was very moving - the faces, so solemn.
  • The armed forces members carrying the casket inside look so young and fresh. I could have easily babysat for one or more. You could see on their faces that they took their assignment very seriously, but I wonder how many of them called their parents and asked, "Who was this guy, Mom? Dad, I don't know anything about him other than history class."


  • Out of all the former First Ladies, Rosalynn Carter looked the best, hands down. She may have had some work done, but she still looked good.
  • I have a soft spot for Barbara Bush, because of the resemblance between her and my own mom, but you could see her age.
  • Nancy Reagan didn't look good at all. She was wearing sunglasses indoors, and her mouth looked like she might have had a stroke. Expressionless is the best adjective, I believe.
  • They had an interesting shot during the service where you had Rosalynn Carter in the forefront, and Hillary Clinton was over her shoulder. Rosalynn's face had a mixed expression of grace and somberness, but Hillary looked - for lack of a better word - SNARKY. She may have been feeling something, but it looked to me like she was just pissy because she was late for some important yoga class or something. I was not impressed.
  • Betty Ford - wow. She looked so little and frail, and all her kids were there (including the hot one that used to be on "The Young And The Restless'). But if you looked at her eyes, they didn't have that sheen - you know the one, when older people are just not with us mentally, but their bodies remain. She knew everything that was going on. She sat up straight and dignified, yet welcomed the touch of her children and leaned on them. She allowed herself to chuckle at funny reminiscences and smile at kind and loving words said by the speakers. When one son and one daughter read verses, she was proud that they could do this even though they missed their father just as much as she did. Class act, all the way.
  • Laura Bush - not sure what to make of her. I looked at her once and thought I was getting the same "serenity vibe" that I got from Rosalynn Carter, but when I looked at her again later, she looked smug. Maybe it was just me...maybe that's how her face is shaped - I don't know. I just thought it was strange that "smug" popped into my head when I looked at her.


  • Oh baby - the music just about wiped me out. The Cathedral Choir sang "The King Of Love My Shepherd Is", and it definitely had that British choir feel - very little vibrato, children singing the treble parts, etc. Again, I wonder if the kids really understood the significance of this moment, or if they had to get a briefing from their parents. If it had been me, I would have gotten a copy of the program. Damn skippy!
  • I didn't realize how big the "music area" was in the Cathedral. They had two choir lofts on either side for the Cathedral choir, and then a larger area beyond that for the U.S. Marine Orchestra & Armed Forces Chorus. And I thought we were hot stuff back home in the Methodist Church just because we had to take out a few pews in the front. What was I thinking? Man...I've got to go back just to see the performance space again. BTW, the numbers that the Armed Forces Chorus/US Marine Orchestra were beautiful as well. I think the Navy Hymn was my favorite.
  • Denyce Graves (from the Washington Opera) sang "The Lord's Prayer" with the Armed Forces Chorus/US Marine Orchestra. It's kind of bizarre to think that she and I both have the same song in our repetoire, but there ya go. However, unlike Denyce, I don't think the high note is in my range anymore. I've gotta get it back.


  • Bush Sr. gave the first one - he's lookin' pretty old, but then again, he IS pretty old. (WWII vet, ya know). His voice sounds strong for being in his 80s. He discussed Ford's integrity and his golf game, and the fact that both he and Ford were imitated on "SNL". He even imitated himself imitating Dana Carvey imitating him (lost yet?)...even though I didn't vote for him and didn't like how Desert Storm was handled, I think he is a nice enough guy - one I'd ask to borrow a rake or snowshovel if I lived next door.
  • Henry Kissinger - physically speaking, he doesn't look much different in the face (not many wrinkles, same glasses, same build). He has a full head of white hair, and his voice was rougher than it used to be. He talked about Ford being at the forefront of so many different political activities (economical, environmental, etc.) long after public attention waned. Kissinger asserted that Ford was not a figurehead. One sad thing I noticed - as commanding as Kissinger was in his speech, he had to be assisted down by one of the Bishop's aides. I'm glad he didn't fight it for appearance's sake.
  • Tom Brokaw - another head of white hair! He's sounding more like "Ted Baxter" from "Mary Tyler Moore", but he also gave a wonderful remembrance. He didn't try to imitate someone else that imitated him, but he did work in homages to nasty-looking '70s clothing. His remembrance was very well done. For those who watched the service, was Brokaw the one that mentioned the giant chicken head?
  • DUBYA SPEAKS! He seemed more comfortable than I thought he would be, but maybe this service was a welcome break from the whole "war" that he says we need to be in. He was the first one out of all the speakers to mention Ford's military service...not sure why that is. I think both Bush men noted Nixon's pardon and described it as a hard choice to make that may have cost him the election. (gee, ya think?)
  • The rector of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church gave the gospel reading as well as a short sermon based on Matthew 5 (the Beatitudes) that was very well put together. It seemed like a good choice.
  • Words noted describing Ford: decency, integrity, character, prudence, common sense, ethics, dignity, wisdom, humor, driven, duty, stability, grace, courage, deep faith.


  • I wonder how Jimmy Carter felt while listening to Ford's accolades? He was a one-term president squished between two Republicans. He seemed pretty stoic but I still wonder what went through his mind.
  • Ford's kids are so good-looking...they have the best of both parents in their looks. They're all blonde except "Jack" (I assume he's the oldest brother).
  • The camera fell on many older men - some allowed a single tear to trickle down their cheek, others did not. Rumsfeld didn't move too much - he looked like he was sculpted from wax sometimes.
  • They had several wonderful shots of the Cathedral during the service - my favorite shots were aerial shots, from the back of the building. You could see the arches and the various flags hanging from the sides. Beautiful. Anyone not moved by these shots are bedwetting Communists - sorry, but true.

I didn't watch any more once they were removing the casket from the Cathedral for internment. I couldn't do it...it might have been too much.

So there ya go - the first Presidential funeral I've watched. I just pray that the days, weeks, and months ahead allow the Ford family some healing. They deserve it.

Back to normal tomorrow, me hearties...