Friday, December 29, 2006

Presidential Travels

I never had strong feelings nor any specific thoughts about President Gerald Ford. During his presidency, I was busy in college and graduate school – exercising the life of the mind that makes "ivory tower" fall miserably short as a description.

So I don't have an axe to grind with President Ford, who died this week. I was touched to read the story from Episcopal News Service, detailing his life in and contributions to our Church. I had no idea! And am impressed by his life of service and faith.

However, while I now have a new-found admiration for the man and fellow Episcopalian, the plans for the next few days do force me to climb upon my hobbyhorse.

Did some airline introduce a new frequent-flyer program that I failed to note – something like "most plane flights traveled by a corpse"? Is there now a new category in the Guinness Book of World Records or some new championship for most funerals for one person? What is this new competition – started, it seems to me, with the death of President Reagan – to see how many plane flights a presidential corpse can take and how many funeral or funeral-like observances can be held?

He participated in the life of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in California, so there will be a private funeral service and public visitation there. Makes perfect sense to me. Then he'll be carried through the Capitol's House chamber, and there will be a state funeral at the Capitol. Then a funeral at the National Cathedral. Then his well-traveled corpse will be flown to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where there will be yet another funeral – this one at the Episcopal parish in which he and Mrs. Ford married in 1948. (I wonder how long it's been since he worshipped there.) And, at last – thanks be to God! – his travel-worn corpse will finally be buried in Grand Rapids, on the grounds of his presidential museum.

Now … does anyone but me see this as more than a wee bit excessive? Think about the Episcopal parishes in which you've been significantly involved in your life. Do you really want to have your corpse hauled from city to city for funeral services in each of them?

Something about this strikes me as decidedly unseemly. Kind of like using the salad fork to eat dessert – another thing we Episcopalians just don't do.

3 Comments:

Blogger january736 said...

It does seem a bit excessive and "showy", doesn't it? Then again, I recall well those times when he became the first appointed president. It was near the middle of my 26 year military career. We seemed rather innocent then, as a country. The incredible crimes of the Nixon presidency (Watergate may well have been the birth place of what some consider the stolen election of 2000) bred cynicism and outrage. We were divided by so many issues. Divided and hurting by the betrayal of our elected leaders. Remember: we were much less experienced then in "high crimes and misdemeanors". They are so commonplace now.Gerald Ford was the leader we needed then. Not a great president, but a good and decent man who brought the awareness of grace back into our national life. He and Betty together led us into a time of healing, a return of good humor and trust. I imagine that many people will want to bid him peace and thanks. So maybe his postmortem journeys are excessive, but perhaps it will do us good to thus recall a man of honesty and simple goodness who led us, for a time. Just a thought.

12/30/2006 12:24 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

January736, I did not mean to disparage President Ford in any way! He does deserve the thanks of a grateful nation.

I merely wonder why our nation seems to be staging ever-more elaborate observances of presidential funerals. It just strikes me as a bit unseemly.

12/30/2006 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It does seem rather excessive, doesn't it? At the same time, though, the funeral trains of RFK and FDR made several stops on their ways, and poor Lincoln had his body trotted out for funeral processions in about a dozen cities on its way back to Springfield.

12/31/2006 11:45 PM  

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