The church was packed. Mom would have liked that. And all five “first ladies” were in attendance–she would have liked that too. She would have appreciated that Melania came, even though her husband dldn’t–and that wouldn’t have surprised her either.
Wonderful things were said. All kinds of people gave Rosalynn Carter unending homage for her zeal in caring for “the least of these.” Mom would have noted that was something we’re all called to do.
Today, Mom would have appreciated President Carter’s startling move of including Rosalynn in cabinet meetings. Mrs. Carter insisted on it, but then so did he. Jimmy, the POTUS, always claimed that any successes he’d ever achieved came his way because of his able and attentive spouse, who was more than happy–insistent even–on offering her opinion on political matters. Years ago, Mom might have thought Mrs. Carter’s insistence unseemly.
Mom appreciated the way Rosalynn and Jimmy, when retired, filled their pockets with nails, picked up a hammer and saw, and helped out on Habitat homes, a former President and his first lady sweating in the noonday sun–imagine that! And she would have appreciated the little anecdotes people told, like her son’s story of how his mother had pulled out a Tupperware tub right there on the plane and started making sandwiches for fellow passengers, who “couldn’t believe it,” her son told the mourners. “But she loved people.”
I think Mom might have been surprised to realize, as some claimed, that Rosalynn Carter, throughout her life, had a special regard for the down-and-out, those disadvantaged by life itself, and for her unending work on the part of care-givers. Mrs. Carter was a global humanitarian who worked for nothing less than peace, even in the Middle East.
Mom might have even shed a tear when she heard Rosalynn’s longtime aide describe her thusly: “Wife, mother, business manager, political strategist, diplomat, advocate, author. Yet what I remember most about her was her tireless dedication to taking care of others.”
Tuesday, November 28, was Mom’s birthday. She’s been gone for just a decade. One November Friday of 2013, an oncologist told her she had inoperable cancer. On the Monday next, she died, her quiet and sudden leave-taking a very special gift.
I thought of Mom during Rosalynn’s tribute service in Atlanta, remembered it was her birthday on November 28, and couldn’t help imagining what she would have thought of the whole event. She walked into my memory when that packed Atlanta audience sang “Blessed Assurance! Jesus is Mine.” If I know my mother, she would have shed a tear just then–‘oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.” My parents’ headstone is engraved with the opening line of that fine old hymn.
Right then, Mom’s knees would have buckled, her breath would have staggered, and her lip would have curled. She would have reached for a Kleenex from that little TV table that, by the end, held just about all she needed to get along. “Blessed Assurance” would have brought Mom to Mrs. Carter’s Atlanta celebration, despite the dark reality she could not possibly have forgotten: just like her husband, Rosalynn Carter was a Democrat.
Just exactly how someone like my mother–so much more like Rosalynn Carter than Melanie Trump–could end her life as a torchbearer for the Orange Jesus is a question I’d love to hear her answer today, a decade later, in realms of glory.
But should she have been watching a massive big-screen TV stretches across a heavenly sky, and should she have seen that Atlanta tribute, I’d like to think she would have loved every minute of it, every last thing.
Who knows? Maybe the two of them would have watched it together. Why not? In the new heavens and the new earth, lions and lambs snuggle. “This is my story/this is my song. . .”
You know the words.