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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, November 06, 2004

A Mourning in America

June 11, 2004. The Funeral of President Ronald W. Reagan
"All we go down to the dust,"
his priestly friend intoned,
and the words echoed
in the stained glass silence.
Below him on the catafalque,
bound tight in stars and stripes,
was the wooden box
that throngs for days
had come to pay respect.

Outside (and all across the land)
that which tightly held our focus
waved slowly in the darkened noon,
never lower on the mast.
It, too, seemed somehow at a loss—
not knowing how to thank the man
who made it wave so proudly in his day—
and so felt all who lined the way
and watched him leave the towering spires
and pass forever
from his city shining on the hill.

Then in the West,
as if to claim the setting sun,
he came to rest upon a chosen rise
where were whispered last goodbyes
to him who kindly bid us all farewell
those many years ago.

The full weight of his absence
first hit me when we saw the empty mount
that bore his backward boots.
It was mourning in America...
draped not so much in sorrow
but belated gratitude.

Considering that President Bush's ( POTUS 43) second term is considered by many to be a continuation of the Reagan Revolution, I thought it might be appropriate to post something I wrote back in June.

President Reagan's death on Saturday, June 4, 2004, prompted a greater response from the public than even his greatest admirers would have predicted. After all, it had been a full decade since he had written his 1994 farewell letter to the nation informing us that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease which closed: "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."

The years passed by with little news of his status. He and Nancy lived those years quietly in their home in California's Simi Valley. He breathed his last in the room adjoining hers, and that private moment soon triggered a week of non-stop nostalgia and personal tribute to the man most credited for the collapse of the Soviet Union's Iron Curtain and the literal tearing down of the hated Berlin Wall. For the networks and cable news channels, it became a review of the 80's, which (thanks largely to the Clinton 90's) were remembered by many as the true apex of the waning 20th Century.

Reagan's last week in the news was the first memorable state funeral since JFK's, and there were many similar elements. The most obvious difference was that Kennedy's tragic assassination left the country reeling in disbelief and grief. Reagan's funeral was a celebration of sorts, a time when long-overdue tributes were shared-in some cases by partisans who never said a kind word about the 40th president while he led the nation into his "New Beginning." These same critics mocked Reagan's traditional values, flag-waving, and his Rockwellian ad campaign that proclaimed, "It's morning in America," (and continued running after his inauguration.)

The observances began in California at the Reagan Library, then on Wednesday moved east to the Capital via Air Force One. It was on this day that the horse-drawn caisson followed the empty-saddled horse that had Reagan's own riding boots in the stirrups. Friday, the last day of scheduled events, was a drizzle of sky and gray in D.C. The official service was held in the National Cathedral. One of the speakers chosen by Nancy to deliver a eulogy was former Senator John Danforth, who is also an Episcopal clergyman (and recently appointed US Ambassador to the U.N.). I heard his portion of the service live on the radio, and this opening line "All we go down to the dust" (which may have been original or liturgical) stuck with me through the day and came back to me when the casket was last seen in the glow of the setting California sun. See the images here.


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