Close to Nowhere

Fitting ceremonies

Friday I spent most of the day, as Henderson Milan used to write in his column, funeralizing.

The first wasn’t actually a funeral. John McCain was taken to the Capitol rotunda where he laid in state. Only 30 others have lain there.

The ceremonies were impressive but perhaps the thing I was most taken with is that his casket rested on the same bier that had held the casket of Abraham Lincoln. That gave me goosebumps and, I think, made the rest of the ceremony even more impressive.

I am very non-political. I hear the rumors of terrible political wars, but especially on Facebook, if it looks political, I skip right over and go on to the next grandkid, kitten or puppy post. I vote and that’s all I can do in the political arena.

The speech that moved me the most Friday was Paul Ryan’s. I can’t tell you what political party he belongs to. I can tell you that he cared a great deal for John McCain. Several people have suggested that this speech was written for him and on and on in the political vein. Friday morning wasn’t politics.

McCain’s mother was at the funeral. He was a few days shy of 82. His mom is 106. She reached her hand out and comforted her youngest granddaughter, who was sitting beside her.

I tried to imagine what it had been like for her while her son John was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five and a half years. I can’t even begin to.

It was a solemn and very touching ceremony and a fitting tribute to such a patriot.

Aretha Franklin’s funeral was so different. Many cried, but much of the day was laughter and music.

As befits the Queen of Soul, her funeral was full of Bible readings, prayers, politicians, and preachers. But the best part was the music.

Faith Hill, a country singer, started the music with a very soulful, rocking version of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

I can’t remember the officiating minister’s name, but he was great. He said he’d not heard much country music and wasn’t familiar with Faith Hill, but how and what she sang was “soulful!”

Smokey Robinson was one of the celebrity speakers. Man, I loved Smokey and the Temptations. He epitomized “cool.” Friday, he still did.

Bill Clinton could hardly talk for crying. Al Sharpton and Louis Farakan sat peaceably on the same stage.

Letters were read from somany different folks, including George and Barbara Bush and Barack and Michelle Obama.

Apparently speakers had been asked to hold it to five minutes, to give everyone time to say something. A few went over. But the speaking and the politicking that went on weren’t what mattered during Aretha’s eight-hour funeral.

It was the music.

Smokey said he met Aretha when he was 8 and she was 6 and she was already impressing everyone with her voice and talent. He said they remained close friends. He also sang a’ cappella, a verse or two of “Really Gonna Miss You.”

That Motown Sound was a huge part of my teenage years. I loved Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and, of course, Aretha.

Her going-home celebration Friday wasn’t a funeral; it truly was a celebration -- and not just of her incredible musical talent. Friday was a testament to her heart, the love she had for her family and her fans and of her hard work for not only African-Americans, but for all Americans.

She truly was the “Queen of Soul.”

Holly Springs South Reporter

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