Last Friday evening I stood among thousands of people in Kennebunkport’s Dock Square, the pulse of this seaside village, awaiting the Christmas Prelude tree lighting ceremony. We cheered loudly and enthusiastically when 15,000 twinkling lights on the 35-foot-tall tree suddenly punctuated and illuminated the cold dark night.
Ironically and unknowingly, while we were joyously celebrating the start of the Christmas season, President George H. W. Bush — the man who popularized the phrase “1000 points of light” — was taking his last breaths at his home in Houston, Texas. He’d been the leader of the free world but, to the townsfolk, he was a neighbor and friend, and for many the star atop our town tree.
Yesterday a good pal told me, “It’s sort of amazing that I was invited to his Inauguration back in 1988, and now I’ve been invited to his funeral.”
“The Bush family invites you and your guest to attend a Service
of Celebration and Thanksgiving for the life of:
George Herbert Walker Bush
41st President of the United States of America
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Washington National Cathedral
Because seating is limited, this invitation is nontransferable.
RSVP is required for admission.
Please respond by Tuesday, December 4th, 2018, at 12:00pm
using the buttons below. We will provide additional information
upon receipt of your RSVP.”
In the last few days I’ve seen countless Facebook and Instagram blurbs posted by locals recalling their encounters with President Bush — photos of Memorial Day celebrations, or dinners at Mabel’s Lobster Claw, or in H.B. Provisions, our “everything you’ll ever want or need” store. Luanne MacDonald, the owner of Hurricane, showed me a special table of Bush memorabilia set right in the center of this popular restaurant (a “41” favorite).
The day after Bush died, my friend Jennifer McCabe experienced a special moment when she took her Prelude visitors to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church where the Bush family prays every Sunday, when in residence. St. Ann’s is a summer chapel and had been closed since September. Jennifer said, “I told my friends I wanted them to see where I’d gotten married. When we drove in, we met the caretaker, Reggie, and he told us he decided to open the gates so that folks would have a place to come.” Her out-of-town visitors toured the church and got to see where George and Barbara sat for services. They also shed some tears while taking photos of the American flag at half mast.
This past Sunday, my friend Betty Smith took me to a Christmas concert in nearby Sanford to hear the Seaglass Chorale. After leading this talented group of singers in a medley of Christmas songs, director Jean Strazdes turned to the audience and suggested we all sing “Auld Lang Syne” in honor of President Bush. I can attest that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Today I’ll settle into a comfortable chair and watch President Bush’s funeral. And I’ll do so with my special memory.
Nearly 28 years ago I was playing golf with pal Sandy Boardman at Cape Arundel Golf Course. “Playing golf” is stretching it, because I was a complete novice with two lessons under my visor.
We were on the back 9. I hit a drive that actually got airborne but landed in a thicket bordering the fairway. As Sandy drove the cart towards where we thought my ball might be, she said, “Don’t worry, the President is playing here today so I know the Secret Service have probably already spotted your ball.” They had, and so had President Bush and his playing partner, CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz.
Sandy, a longtime friend and fishing partner of 41, greeted the men and introduced me. Apparently, the President’s ball had landed in the same thicket.
“You go ahead and hit your ball first,” he said graciously. “Oh no, please, you go,” I said. “Absolutely not,” he answered. I desperately didn’t want to whiff, skull or shank the ball as I’d been doing for the past dozen holes. Amazingly, miraculously, I managed to slash my pink Flying Lady out of there — up and over a group of boulders, through two trees, around a shrub, right back into the center of the fairway. “Great shot!” he said. Little did he know, but then again, I think he did.
George Herbert Walker Bush — gentleman, golfer and all-around good guy — will indeed be missed here in our coastal village.