There are funerals, and then there are FUNERALS. This past week we watched two public ceremonies, both wonderful send-offs in different ways.
John McCain planned every detail of his three funeral ceremonies and he must have had a hell of a time doing so. Thursday his memorial service was held in McCain’s church in Tucson and the friends he asked to speak were a diverse group—multi-cultural, multi-racial, from different walks of life. They didn’t disappoint. There were tales of his bad driving, salty language and even—from Joe Biden, no less—a story about McCain dancing on a tabletop and knocking back tequila shooters with Jill Biden. This I find difficult to picture. What surprised me the most, however, was the ease with which McCain’s friends talked about how much they loved him and how often he said “I love you” to them. There hasn’t been a lot of love in the national dialogue lately.
At Aretha Franklin’s services, the form was similar: a row of older male friends in chairs behind the podium—Jesse Jackson, the Reverend Al Sharpton and former president Bill Clinton, among others—and speeches about the deceased. Sharpton’s speech was feisty, just like Aretha. Clinton’s eulogy was surprisingly short and ended with a heartfelt “I just loved her.”
The service in Detroit was different than the one in Tucson: less formal with more comings and goings, more music and—my favorite part—people rising from their seats to rock along with the performers. As with McCain’s ceremony, Aretha’s farewell was multi-racial and multi-cultural. Eight hours after the funeral began, Stevie Wonder concluded with a plea to “Make Love Great Again” and set the place rocking with a beautiful rendition of “I’ll Be Loving You Always.”
I don’t know if Franklin and McCain ever met, but if they did, I am sure they loved each other. Both of them went through challenging times. Both their lives were inspiring because of their courage, independence and the high standards they set. For several hours over three days, it seemed that it just might be possible to Make America Love Again.
RIP, Aretha and John.