On Friday I put my little TV up on the wall in my office because I wanted to watch the dual death-rite spectacles of John McCain and Aretha Franklin.
Aretha, with three wardrobe changes: Scarlett, pale blue, rosy gold, and pure gold. Laid to rest in a pure golden dress with golden shoes. The embalmer got a shout out from the podium.
Aretha: Dearly departed. They’re called “departed” because when you look into their dead faces they are no longer there. They have gone. Gone Home. Home-going.
Tiny little Ariana Grande sang Natural Woman. Heartfelt, but Not Aretha. Not by miles. I almost wonder if the falling-short was intended — not to spotlight Ariana’s shortcomings, but to emphasize Aretha’s abundance — of talent, of experience, of her… Aretha-ness. Aretha: one name. Under God. Aretha. The Detroit park on the shore of the great lake is renamed. Henceforth it is Aretha Franklin Park. Aretha.
Funny old Bill Clinton spoke. He told of going to see her in her last months. Told of her receiving him. Of how it was clear she was deathly ill. “Gaunt,” he said. Gaunt, who had been a full store of female abundance all her public life. He said she rose to greet him: “How you doin’, baby?” And he said, “Better now!” And the room filled with a full tide of loving laughter. “Better now.” Aretha.
The music started late and kept going long, long after. The family saved a thousand seats for fans waiting outside who were “properly attired” for a Home Going. And they came. “Attired” to the nines. Brim-full — splitting at the seams — with respect. Aretha. Hats and hair dressings. Suits and gowns and fancy, painful shoes on tired, split and flattened working feet. My heart swelled to see them. Such love! Aretha. Singing, tears, applause. Much, much love. Home-Going. Aretha. God receive your girl, Aretha. We send her your way. Are you ready for her? Are you ready, God? Here she comes. You keep her now. Keep her and exalt her; let our thanks and praise and love for her magnify your great works and power. All for God’s glory. All for our life in Christ. Aretha. We return her to you. This woman. Our sister. Our girl. Aretha.
West @ Phoenix then cross the country then east in WDC, John McCain also was raised up and praised in memory, honored, thanked, presented. Another kind of Home-going. As beloved. As much the heartbeat of his community as Aretha has been of hers. Themes in his sendoff included cooperation — differences in ideas that are never confused or misapprehended as differences in merit or honor or goodness or loyalty. A different understanding of the job of Senator — to build and sustain a Nation, not to win a point against the opposition. To move the whole, not by coercion, but by persuasion, negotiation, sharing of burdens and successes — of never giving up on the other side.