the last of the lions

“What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.”
Hans Urs von Balthasar

(Senator Bob (Doyle, 95, salutes the casket of his friend, colleague, opponent and
fellow WWII vertern, George, H.W. Bush)

(this is a portion of a post I offered back in 2018 with the passing of
President George Herbert Walker Bush— Bush 41…
Bush was the dear friend, colleague and fellow veteran of Senator Bod Dole
—one of the last of the greatest generation who pledged their life
and service to our great nation—Senator Robert Dole passed away
yesterday…)

If there is one image that has touched my heart the most, over the past couple of days
other than the image of former President George H.W. Bush’s service dog Sully resting
at the foot of his casket, it is this image…
this one picture…

The poignant and heart touching image of Senator and fellow WWII Vet
Bob Dole of Kansas being helped to his feet, in order to salute his longtime friend.

Senator Dole, of Kansas, is 95 years young yet is frail and is in failing health
but he was determined to be brought to the US Capitol building in order to pay his
respects to his fellow veteran and friend.

To most men of ‘that generation’ respect has always meant standing, and in this
case saluting, as both men fought, and were each wounded,
during what they simply referred to as “The War.”

Bob Dole was in the infantry fighting in Italy when he was hit by German
machine gun fire in the back and arm.

According to Wikipedia:
Dole was badly wounded by German machine gun fire,
being hit in his upper back and right arm.
As Lee Sandlin describes, when fellow soldiers saw the extent of his injuries,
all they thought they could do was to “give him the largest dose of morphine they dared
and write an ‘M’ for ‘morphine’ on his forehead in his own blood,
so that nobody else who found him would give him a second, fatal dose.”

Dole was transported to the United States, where his recovery was slow,
interrupted by blood clots and a life-threatening infection.
After large doses of penicillin had not succeeded,
he overcame the infection with the administration of streptomycin,
which at the time was still an experimental drug.
He remained despondent,
“not ready to accept the fact that my life would be changed forever.”
He was encouraged to see Hampar Kelikian, an orthopedist in Chicago who
had been working with veterans returning from war.
Although during their first meeting Kelikian told Dole that he would
never be able to recover fully, the encounter changed Dole’s outlook on life,
who years later wrote of Kelikian, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide,
“Kelikian inspired me to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it,
rather than complaining what had been lost.”

Dr. K, as Dole later came to affectionately call him, operated on him seven times,
free of charge, and had, in Dole’s words,
“an impact on my life second only to my family.”

I am always gratified when I read of or hear of the stories about the impacts
that one human being can have upon another…
impacts, that more often than not, are unbeknownst to the one who is doing the impacting.

I call it the gift of the unknowing.

These unknown gifts actually consist of simple things such as time,
assistance or a listening ear or even what might be perceived as an
insignificant opportunity…
These gifts, which more often than not are unbeknownst to the giver…
become paramount and even life-changing to the recipient.

Bob Dole had his gift giver.
And we Americans are better for it.

And if the truth was told, I think most all of us have had a gift giver, if not several,
during the course of our lives.

Senator Robert J. Dole (1923-2021)
Mr. Dole, a son of the Kansas prairie who was left for
dead on a World War II battlefield,
became one of the longest-serving Republican leaders.

(NYT)

Wise men still blessedly seek and know…

“God desires to reveal His heart to us and to build His heart
into us as we seek His face.”

Bill Mills

Something I learned this past week that I didn’t know,
is that as soon as a President becomes President, the planning for his death and funeral
is set in motion.

Being President is such a huge role that it seems that it doesn’t matter when you leave the office—
not nearly as much as it does as when you leave this life.

Shortly after taking the helm, President 41 was approached by his aides that he would need
to sit down in order to write up his final wishes for his funeral service…
orchestrate it, if you will, down to every last detail.

Here he was just settling into the new job and when he’s told he needs to focus on his death.

An odd paradox to any new president to be sure.

Reluctantly President 41 agreed but forlornly mused that he doubted anyone would be
showing up.

He wasn’t being self-deprecating for show…he honestly thought no one would really
want to show up for such a thing as his funeral.

I admit– I hate funerals.
I attend them only if it is absolutely necessary.

I think that goes back to when I was 7 and my grandfather died unexpectantly.
I was crushed because he was so great, so grand, so special…so mine…
So when he died, I had to grow up fast enough to be a “big” girl throughout his
death and funeral.
I next had to witness the very visible downward spiral of my grandmother shortly following…

It was a hard time for a 7-year old little girl who adored her grandparents.

I’ve never cared for funerals since.

I buried my cousin, who was my best friend when I was 21; my mother when I was 26;
my grandmother when I was 26; my other grandmother when I was 29; my brother when I was 35;
my dad when I was 58; my aunt when I 58…
that doesn’t count the numerous friends and colleagues I’ve helped bury nor that of my
husband’s family…it just never seems to end.

So I can understand the reluctance in having to sit down and plan such a thing when such
thoughts seem to need to rest on a back shelf someplace else…
at least for just a little while longer.

I suppose the sense of urgency for a president to plan his own funeral may have come
from the assassination of a youthful John F. Kennedy.
I’ve not researched this so I could be wrong…it may actually go back much further than that
but I just figure after JFK, the suddenness of death didn’t seem so far removed after all.

Yet over the course of this seemingly long week of somberness and grief, I have
actually been sweetly blessed.
I have learned some important lessons.

Lessons such as… allowing one’s life, rather than ones’ words, to be the true witness of
how to live and of how to treat others.

I’ve learned how to be a servant.

I’ve learned how to be gracious in all circumstances.

I’ve learned how humor cures.

I’ve learned the importance of always being gracious and humble.

I’ve learned that there is hope in death.

I’ve learned that age is just a number.

I’ve learned that physical limitations should not be seen as a limitation to living but
rather as an opportunity.

And I’ve learned that as we grow older, we do indeed grow wiser.
Or so should be our hope.

We lose the smugness and arrogance of a more youthful self and we realize that there
are things that are truly greater than ourselves.

I watched many an older gentleman, this past week, speak of a dear old friend in terms
of a knowingness.

These men, most of whom hail from “the Greatest Generation”…
men who were once important and powerful, speak now of their smallness compared to the greatness
of their Creator, their Savior, their God…
He who is much greater than themselves.

I heard them speak of God and His greatness as well as His graciousness.
I heard them speak of humility and lessons learned.

These are men who lived large lives and yet remained grounded.

I told a blogging friend this past week that every time one more member of this Greatest
Generation dies, I feel a little less safe and little less secure.

That was until I heard and saw the visible lessons offered by our 41st president and those
who knew him best…throughout a life well lived and through a slow dying
of which ended with love and grace.

The reflection of a parish priest who witnessed the 60 plus years of a loving friend stroke
the feet of his dying friend.
Of how the President seemed to have slipped into that place between life and death
as those who gathered around him waited.

Yet James Baker stood at the foot of the bed and rubbed the feet of his friend and who
in turn, with eyes closed and no words spoken, smiled.

The priest thought of Jesus who after all had been said and done that Passover evening,
proceeded to wash the feet of his dear friends.

This oh so divided Nation that is rife with its fair share of smugness, arrogance, defiance,
and yes, even hate…a Nation I have been so fretful over…

Well, it was throughout this week that I was reminded that we are capable of being better
when we are needed to be.
We can rise above when necessary…

And so my friends, it is that time…it is the time that we hold ourselves accountable.
We must be wise and not foolish.
As it is imperative that we remember that there is something, Someone, so much greater
than ourselves.

He is our Creator and we are his created and it is time that we seek His grace.

CAVU, 41

CAVU
Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited

A common military acronym used primarily by pilots
and an acronym used throughout the life of the 41st President of the
United States of America, former WWII Naval pilot,
George Herbert Walker Bush, 1924-2018


Image of President Georgh H.W. Bush’s service dog Sully who has been told that
his mission is now accomplished and well done.

One thing that we Americans do well, this mixed family of the very divided and
political adversarial…the good thing that makes us the people who we are…

Is the fact that we can actually come together in times of our collective loss and express
our gratitude to those individuals who have given so much of themselves to serve us, the people—

Those being our leaders…those being our presidents.

Yet not only do we say goodbye to our 41st president…
we also say goodbye to one more member of the Greatest Generation…
A military service member who deferred college in order to enlist.
Only to become the Nation’s youngest fighter pilot at the tender age of 19.

As a member of this greatest generation,
Bush is remembered not only as one of our Presidents but more importantly,
he is remembered as one of those who sacrificed so much of their own lives,
as some did with their very lives, in order to secure the future for our lives.

After having been hit during a bombing mission, with his plane on fire,
Bush told his crew to “abandon ship” while he stayed at the controls to complete
the bombing mission before bailing out himself.

Read the story here:
http://ww2today.com/2-september-1944-usnr-lt-george-h-w-bush-shot-down-in-dive-bomb-attack

And so during the next several days, we will gather together as a Nation along with a grieving
family in offering our gratitude to the service of our 41st President…
a man who was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, uncle, great-grandfather
as well as a Luetinent in The United States Navy…A man who would go on to
become a Congressman, an Ambassador, the Director of the CIA,
a Vice President and eventually, as most of us recall, the man who followed in the large
footsteps of Ronald Reagan in becoming the
Nation’s 41st President of the United States…George Herbert Walker Bush.

CAVU, Mr. President.

” America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle.
We as a people have such a purpose today.
It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.”

George Herbert Walker Bush