Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kennedy Funeral [and 7/31 update]

Am watching the Kennedy funeral. Just watched the arrival of the hearse, and the careful and deliberate choreography of the military guard as they took the coffin from the hearse and carried it, step by lockstep, to the curb, to the church, and up the steps to the great doors. Each step was called out, the flag-covered coffin held with respect, parallel to the ground even as they climbed the stairs.

They moved into the middle aisle, now with the cardinal and the clergy in attendance, and the pallbearers gathered loosely around. With slow, precise moves the guard removed and then folded the flag, turn by turn by turn, passing it one to the next. Their job finished, they pivoted and filed out to the side, their orderly exit parting the crowd.

The chronos of order steps out. Yet, before the kairos of liturgy begins, one last gesture:

His wife steps forward with the white pall. Two women come forward to help her, together they unfold the pall, lay it over the coffin and smooth it. They check to be sure the sides are even. Their gestures are not choreographed, they do not march in step. There is a need here, and they are simply responding. They are women, they know the rhythm of care, of doing; they know how to work in concert to set this stage, and that they will step back into the shadows when that work is done. They looked exactly like your mother and her sisters, moving from the stove and sink to cover the dining room table with the good linen tablecloth for yet another family dinner. Later, with no particular organization, the dishes will be dried, the counters wiped, the leftovers packed away.

When the women are finished, they do step back, and the clerics whisper among themselves, finding their place in the book that will give them their lines.

[Update, 7/31: I know, I said in the last post I'm on break till the 7th. So I'll shut up already. But do read Douthat in the NYT today, the contrast between Teddy and Eunice is important, though I don't think the place of abortion in the new health proposals will be different than it is now. About which we can talk. In a week. (tmatt comments as well...)]