I wanted to take Wednesday and Thursday off.
But I don’t work for the federal government.
So I absorbed as much as I could from my desk, which wasn’t much. On Wednesday, I heard most of the eulogies from Brian Mulroney and our very own Sen. Al Simpson. On Thursday, I heard nearly all of the funeral of President George H.W. Bush, or as I refer to him with the most reverence possible, “41.”
Simpson’s eulogy was mostly like he is — larger than life, down to earth, funny, wonderful.
That silver bucking horse pin on his lapel got more notoriety than most humans get in a lifetime — and certainly more than the Pokes will get during the upcoming sham of a bowl season.
I have many personal recollections of Simpson, most of which I think you already know — how he refers to my parents as his “dear friends,” how he refers to Peggy Jane the Mom, with whom he nearly shares a birthday (he’s three days older) as “your dear mom.” The thing is, just like his remarks on Wednesday, I know he means it. They really are dear to him, like most everyone else he’s ever met is.
The thing that struck me the most about Thursday’s service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston was how right it all was.
I loved singing the “National Anthem,” with gusto to open the service. Later, I wistfully told the friend that I wanted to go to a church where we sing the “National Anthem.” Sadly, we don’t at ours and it frustrates me.
I loved that The Oak Ridge Boys, who by the way are in town a week from Monday and I cannot wait, sang an a cappella “Amazing Grace.”
I loved that Reba McEntire sang “Our Father.”
And mostly, I loved that with all of the TV cameras there, and all of the millions of viewers, the services, especially the one from Houston, seemed intimate.
It was a family saying goodbye to its beloved patriarch. It was four sons and a daughter and their spouses bidding farewell to a father. It was 17 grandchildren and many of their spouses bidding farewell to their “Gampy.”
It all came back — saying goodbye to Fritz the Dad. Much is a blur, 19-1/2 years later. Some things stand out. The respect that the media showed — quietly standing across the street from the cathedral as we exited.
“Someone needs to talk to them,” I said, always a defender of the media.
So my mother on my brother’s arm thanked them for coming and paying their final respects to her Fritz.
I remember the luncheon that mom hosted at their home, although she hadn’t slept for weeks, because that’s where Fritz the Dad loved to be most of all. We were stunned at the luminaries who came and thought it was kind of like being at a Hall of Fame function, with limos blocking the street and giants in the coaching and playing ranks squeezed into hallways and out on the expansive back lawn.
I remember the roses that my daughter, then just turned 9, and my niece, just 20 months, dropped on the casket before it was lowered into its place at St. Benedict Cemetery.
Last week, it was just a family saying goodbye — and in a small way, we were privileged to share it with them.