Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Reflections on the Reagan Ceremonies

I wasn't too interested in the ceremonial aspect of the processions and activities swirling around the funeral of Reagan. As I was surfing the WWW I hear the goings on on the tv in the living room. We only have one station that we can watch because that is all that picks up with the antennae. It is an ABC affiliate, so I occasionally hear Peter Jennings offering up some explanation of what is going on, and now and then I'd hear Barbara Walter's voice break in. I wasn't really paying attention until I suddenly heard applause and cheering.

I thought am I hearing applause? I did not expect applause at any time through this. That caught my attention so I went into the living room to see what was going on.

The last time I saw any part of a state funeral was during the reshowing of the broadcast of Kennedy's funeral. I was not yet born when Kennedy was laid to rest, but I remember sitting with my parent's and watching a show on tv. I must have been 6 or 7 years old, which would make sense because my feeling is that what I was viewing was a rebroadcast of the events of 1963 on it's tenth anniversary, which would have made it 1973. I remember first learning about the Kennedy assassination and the whole Oswald/Ruby thing during that documentary. I remember the images of the funeral procession...I hear the drum cadence, the bugle playing Taps, and watch the precision of the military men attending the casket. I remember hearing the clop of the horses. It was during all that ceremony that my dad explained to me that the military men I was watching were trained to do this stuff for funerals. That was mind boggling to me as a kid, the fact that people were actually trained for funerals.

So, when I entered the living room and turned my attention to the tv screen, I saw all those things again, only this time in color. Red, white and blue. I was hearing applause and wondered who the heck was clapping and cheering at a funeral! Then I saw Nancy waving at the people lining the processional route. She looked so dignified and beautiful. Physically older and weaker, but emotionally strong. Her countenance reflected confidence, dignity and strength. I heard a person in the crowd shout "God bless you Nancy!" and she was saying something to the people. I finally saw that she was saying "thank you." All the people were acknowledging this former First Lady and giving her so much support during this difficult time of saying goodbye to the love of her life. I was deeply touched by the scene playing out before me.

I sat down to watch more coverage. I saw the riderless horse, Sgt. York. Seeing that horse makes such a bold statement...a fallen president. Reagan's actual riding boots were in the stirrups, in reverse, and I understand that is to symbolize that the warrior will never ride again. Peter Jennings explained that they are turned to the rear to symbolize that the commander in chief is looking back at the troops he will never again lead, or something like that.

The other scene that sticks with me is when the military begins making the ascent up the 99 steps of the capital building. Nancy is waiting, it seems to be, maybe one level below the entrance. I couldn't really tell, but the military men in perfect precision carry the casket up those steps and as they reach the level where Nancy is, they turn to their right in unison. Nancy is seen leaning toward the flag draped casket and at the precise moment, she takes a step and reaches out to touch the casket which holds the body of her beloved husband. Oh my heart!

As I watched the cameras pan the crowds and I saw all the pomp and circumstance that attends a state funeral I started thinking about Ronald Reagan. He's not even there. While people are celebrating his life, going through all the ceremonies that surround death, Reagan is not even there. People are "paying their respects", as they should, and the military is performing ceremonial duties to perfection and Reagan is not there. Flags are flying at half staff. Taps is resounding over the hills in DC. Twenty-One Gun salutes punctuate the quiet of mourning. The clip clop of horses in a procession and the snappy precision of men in uniform tell all who witness this event that a very important person has died. I hear words like Cassion, Cortege, and "lying in state". These are not words I use everyday, if ever, and it symbolizes, at least to me, again, that someone of importance is dead. Reagan participated in the planning of his funeral, and that started in 1981 shortly after he took office. While we are merely spectators to this ritual, Ronald Reagan is looking into the eyes of his Savior. While we are mourning, he is probably dancing!

No comments:

Post a Comment