It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for that is the end of every man, and the living shall lay it to his heart.” KOHELES (ECCLESIASTES) 7:2
Watching the solemn, loving, funeral service of former President George H.W. Bush in D.C.’s Washington National Cathedral was a heartfelt reaffirmation of the Judeo-Christian values upon which the United States was built.
The service included readings by his granddaughters, Lauren Bush Lauren and Ashley Walker Bush from the prophet Isaiah (60:1-5, 18-20).
“Arise, shine. For your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth and a thick darkness, the peoples, but the Lord will arise upon you and his glory will appear over you. Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders. You shall call your walls salvation and your gates praise. The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night, but the Lord will be your everlasting light and your God will be your glory.”
Granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager read from Revelation of St. John. 21:1-4, 23-25.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new Earth, for the first heaven and the first Earth had passed away and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared, as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Those of us who love American history know that America itself was founded as the “New Jerusalem”.
George HW Bush was a devoted son, husband, father, grandfather. He was a patriot and a war hero. He was many things, but first he was a family man.
He had a true love affair with his wife of 73 years, the late Barbara Bush.
He had five surviving children, having lost a daughter at age 3 to leukemia, then a uniformly fatal disease.
The National Cathedral was a vision of respite and majesty.
President Trump and Melania Trump sat next to former President Barack and Michelle Obama. They shook hands. Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and defeated Democratic presidential candidate stared straight ahead, ignoring the Trumps. Former President Bill Clinton watched their arrival with interest.
Yes, you do learn more at a funeral than at a feast.
At a feast, nearly everyone is jovial, putting on an airs of celebration.
At a funeral the deceased is spoken by the people who knew him or her best. The listeners are forced to be cognizant of their own mortality.
President Bush was a kind, sensitive and intelligent man who risked his life at a young age to serve in the military during World War Two. He was compelled to bail out of his fighter plane and was nearly killed.
Neither the sitting President nor the former Presidents in attendance had wartime combat experience. Former President Carter had been a peacetime Navy officer.
What did Bush’s funeral tell us?
That America, despite the past and ongoing political divisions is a warm, embracing country.
President Bush sent us a posthumous message.
He insisted that President Trump be invited.
Sadly, the recent services of Senator John McCain, from which President Trump was banned, was a disgraceful road show of partisan politics.
Bush would have none of it. It is said that her personally instructed his family that President Trump be invited.
President Bush put the welfare of the nation ahead of personal slights.
That is the lesson we learned from the services and as Ecclesiastes tells us, it taught us more about President Bush and ourselves than tributes at a feast.