Saturday, July 14, 2007

'The example she set for us'

Admirers paused at her closed casket, which was draped in a gold-toned pall with multi-colored embroidery. The pall is an official church drape used in Episcopal funerals.

A pillar stood to the right memorializing former President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society social programs, while windows above displayed red and gold-sealed binders containing 45 million presidential documents. ...

Earlier Friday, Johnson's body was carried for a last trip to her beloved wildflower center in southwest Austin, where family and friends gathered for a private church service ... A large portrait of Johnson wearing a hat and surrounded by wildflowers adorned the wall behind her oak casket. On a table nearby were two vases of bluebells, reportedly her favorite flower. The limestone gallery, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, overlooked a spectacular Central Texas vista.

She was remembered for her "graceful elegance" and "radiant presence."

"She was a picture of what it looks like to be fully alive," said the Rev. Stephen Kinney, former rector of the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, where Johnson worshipped.

He added: "We are here to let Lady Bird go and to celebrate her glad release. This is our time to say goodbye."

This was another Lady Bird spring we had, wasn't it?

Confident and lush and defiantly gorgeous, this spring burst out of an ugly winter in such glory because of Lady Bird Johnson. ... How could she have known how much we would come to count on her annual spring show in Washington and her wildflower stands along the interstates, more than 40 years later? Hers is a simple and steadfast legacy, unparalleled among first ladies. She took her lifelong love affair with nature and strewed it across a huge country, where it could cheer generations of Americans without regard to class or creed or age. She sowed an explosion of color to please the loner trucker barreling down the highway and the poor child skipping past urban trash.

She was a great liberal, when being a liberal and a woman was far, far from cool. It was tough being a liberal in Texas too, then as it is now. She did it with grace, magnanimity and charm.

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